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Personal Branding Tips for Graduates

In this post, I will provide tips I have learned on personal branding which may be beneficial for graduates looking to “market” themselves into their dream job.

Young people entering the workplace today have far better tools and communication channels at hand then previous generations could ever imagine. Social media and the Internet provide all of us with the ability to connect with millions of people all over the world. However, we all know it’s a double-edge sword, allowing bullying and trolling 24/7, but for this post I am focusing only on the positives of the technologies we have available to us for personal branding.

First off, what is personal branding and why is it important for your career.

Personal branding is all about presenting yourself to the world in the way you want to be seen. You do this to help achieve your goals such as landing the dream role, increasing your earning potential and being thought of as a leader or influencer in your skill-sets.

Graduates are faced with more and more challenges in landing a job, let alone their dream job. Globalization and immigration policies have dramatically increased the number of available candidates per role. Success ultimately comes to those who know how to market themselves above and beyond the competition.

I have broken this post into 4 key sections:

  • Selecting a “home base” online to establish yourself and help grow your personal brand.
  • The importance of networking and connecting – not only online but face-to-face.
  • Content curation as a strategy for being recognized as someone to follow online.
  • Writing your own content to start on the path of being known as an expert.

So, let’s begin!

Choose Your Social Media Platforms Wisely

I think anyone who has invested their time and effort in building and growing a social media profile for business will know it’s never ending and massively time consuming.

For developing your personal brand, it’s even more important that you select the social media platforms that are right for you. It’s a complete waste of time investing all that time and effort building up a social media profile on a platform that will serve you no benefit to your career.

LinkedIn is the social media platform I invest most of my time and effort in for building on my personal brand. All the other social media platforms, some of which I must admit, I am too old to even understand, are not even on my radar. The only other social media platform I invest a little time in is Twitter but solely for content curation (see Content Curation section).

I focus on not polluting my personal social media profiles such as Facebook with business and vice versa. For me, LinkedIn and Twitter are for business and every other platform is for personal use.

Of course, LinkedIn is the number one social media platform for business. If you have not yet created a LinkedIn profile for yourself I suggest you do so ASAP. LinkedIn is the main tool people use to research people and businesses – recruiters will contact me via LinkedIn after reviewing my profile, clients connect with me as well as workmates.

As a graduate your first task on the road to personal branding is to establish a “home base” where people can go to get a complete run down on who you are and what skills you have. The home base should be your CV online. Some people recommend that you to establish a personal blog as the home base either as a static CV or a place to post your content. Personally, I don’t recommend a blog as the initial home base for a number of reasons:

  1. Maintaining a blog can be time-consuming, taking you away from your core objective of brand building. If the blog is hosted on a blogging platform then that adds further complexity in regards to SEO and migrating away from the platform.
  2. Unless you can register the domain name for your full name then there will be additional work required for SEO to help locate your website. Search engines especially Google rank highly personal social media profiles before any other domain where you keep a personal profile. If you are lucky enough to register the domain for your full name I would initially have it redirect to your LinkedIn profile. For example, MarcKrisjanous.com.
  3. Your home base should be where your target “market” is – your target market being people you want to connect with. You would not set up a shop where your target market is not present and it’s the same online. LinkedIn is one of the first places online where people go to conduct research on a person or business – that’s where your home base should be.
  4. Your LinkedIn profile not only represents your online CV but also records the groups you belong to, recommendations from others, information about your connections and your recent activity within LinkedIn. It provides an almost complete picture of your professional life on one page. To replicate this functionality on a blog or another non-social media platform would be difficult.

Networking & Connecting

Once you have established your home base within LinkedIn locate all your student friends and connect with them. Also, connect with all your old lecturers as well because you will then be indirectly connected to their networks which instantly gives you some profiles to look at and possibly connect to (see warning below).

Warning!! Do not randomly connect with people you do not know directly on LinkedIn! Attempting to connect with strangers or someone that does not share common interests is one of the worst things you can do on LinkedIn. If one of your direct connections connects with a person you either know or feel they share a common interest then connect – but make sure in your connection request you explain exactly why you want to connect with them.

The reason why you are connecting with people on LinkedIn is to firstly start networking but also it helps with “social proof” – a term used to denote your networking strength. Think of it this way – people by their very nature tend to be more positive towards someone who is seen to be popular. I will leave it at that because I do not want to distract focus and encourage debate on the pros and cons of “social proof”.

After you have connected with people you know on LinkedIn search for LinkedIn groups that cover your interests including skill-sets, then request to join the group. For example, if marketing is your career path then search for marketing groups, if its IT security then join up to IT security groups.

The most important rule when joining a LinkedIn group or any online community for that matter is to first watch and learn. Don’t bother contributing to the group yet. You should first understand the attitude of the group and the key players. You need to understand the “culture” of the group in order to know what is acceptable to contribute and what is not. As a newbie, you don’t want to upset anyone or be laughed at. Once you have identified the key players in the group introduce yourself and confirm with them the rules for the group. This help show that you are respectful of the groups culture and hopefully one or more of the key players in the group will look after you until you are accepted.

Connecting with people online is an important part of personal brand building however, what really cements a relationship is connecting face-to-face.

Ask your workmates and other peers what professional groups are around that you can join to network with people and learn further. Make sure you commit to attending the meetings and don’t be scared to say hello to the attendees.

Conferences and expos are also a fantastic way to meet people not only the locals but people from further afield. Conferences and expos have industry leading speakers so make sure you introduce yourself at the end of their presentation and then attempt to connect with them via LinkedIn.

Important Tip!! When requesting to connect to someone within LinkedIn, make sure you add a note to the connect request such as how you know the person or why you would like to connect with them. Do not, ever, attempt to connect with someone within LinkedIn without providing a personal note in the connection request. Many influencers will ignore the default connection requests since they receive so many – make it personal and memorable.

Content Curation

Content curation is a newish marketing term, though what it involves has been around forever. The results of the effort are “magical” in the way compound interest works for financial growth – it’s a slow process but overtime the results can be exponential.

For example, my personal Twitter profile is currently at 12.6k followers at the time of writing this post – 95% due to content curation.

Content curation is about locating content that would be of interest to your network and sharing it with them so they may get value from it. The content you locate and share should be from various sources not just you. The content should be of a high standard and from reputable sources.

You can share your own content but I have a rule of a 1-to-19 split, meaning each piece of content I authored and shared with my network I share 19 other pieces of content I did not author. This removes any chance of being thought of by your network as purely self-promoting.

Now, you may feel that content curation appears to be a fantastic way to promote others but ultimately does nothing to help promote your own personal brand – but you would be wrong.

This is where the “magic” really kicks in.

Sharing content created by others has amazing benefits to your personal brand such as:

  1. Sharing content that will provide value to your network overtime has a magical effect where people believe you to be an expert on the topics you share. You may never write a single post in your life but sharing well written and high value content authored by others still makes you out to be an expert!
  2. Most people have at times attempted to contact influential or famous people directly only to have no response. This is where the “magic” of sharing another person’s content starts to work! If the person you are trying to connect with authors content such as blog posts, articles, videos etc… share their content with your network and make sure they are aware of the share. Most social media platforms make it easy for the author to be alerted to the share. Alerting the author of the share has two benefits for you: (1) the author is now aware of you and (2) most of us who receive a favor feel compelled to return the favor at some stage. The action of sharing an author’s post is in my opinion the easiest and most effective way of getting a person to notice you and most of the time, results in a favor to be returned. It may take a few or many shares but ultimately, I have found the sharing strategy works 99% of the time.
  3. Though I do recommend, as part of your personal branding, writing on topics you want to be known as having skills in, you don’t have to. Just sharing other people’s content puts you above most people within social media who are mostly watchers not active participants. One of the major success factors for being known in social media is to be active by contributing to the content stream – sharing content makes you an active participant, and therefore as a direct result, people will notice you.

How to find content to share

One easy strategy for content curation, is to locate influencers within your area of focus and re-share whatever they share that you think would be relevant to your network. Not only does this save you time locating content but it also helps you getting noticed by the influencer.

However, to really ignite the magic of content curation you will need to start seeking out content to share yourself.

Finding content to share online that is of high quality and provides value to your network is not hard – it’s just a matter of finding one useful initial source of content. Overtime that initial source will lead you to other sources of great content.

If you’re stuck locating a website for content try News360.com. The website provides a free service where you can sign-up and select categories of interest. News360 will then locate and display content related to your selected interest categories. The content is sourced from thousands of websites. I have used News360 for years and have located some interesting content and websites through this service. As usual, there is a mobile app, so when you have some free time, maybe while traveling to and from work, browse the latest content News360 has located and if something looks interesting share it with your LinkedIn network.

As a final tip, don’t spam your network with too much content. My rule is to share daily 1-3 pieces of content that is of high interest and value to my network. Therefore, my network knows that when I do share something its worth their while to take a look.

Writing Your Own Content

In my opinion, the most effective way to build your personal brand is to write about topics within your skill-set. There are so many benefits to writing content on a topic that I could write another post solely on that subject.

Writing content to promote a person, business or brand is called “content marketing” and at the time of writing this post it’s a massive focus for the marketing sector. Search for “content marketing” to learn more about the strategies used.

Here are some of the most important benefits:

  1. As a graduate, writing about a topic that is part of your professional skill-set forces you to learn more about the topic and to fill in the gaps of knowledge you have. For example, if you’re focused on marketing as a career, create a list of topics you are interested in and commit to writing a post on each topic. The fact that you will end up publishing the content on the Internet to be read by people with far more knowledge and experience than you, should force you to make sure you have researched thoroughly that your content is correct and based on facts.
  2. Building up a collection of content covering your skill-set and publishing on applicable websites and social media platforms such as LinkedIn super-charges your CV. Your content is proof that you actually know something. Don’t forget, most CV’s are embellished to a certain degree – most recruiters and future employers know that a person’s CV conveys how the person wants to be seen – not what they truly are or know. Your content is proof that what you state in your CV is true.
  3. When you have enough content, you can package the whole lot up and create an eBook that other graduates can read and get value from. The eBook is a major marketing tool for you – its pure power for your personal brand! You will be surprised where the eBook will end up – in the hands of influencers, recruiters, future employers, conference management teams looking for speakers. Oh, and now you are also a publisher – another skill to add to your LinkedIn profile and CV! Then of course there is repurposing your content into different channels but I will leave that up to you to discover.

Get Started – Now!

This post provides a small collection of tips I have learned throughout my professional career to help build my professional brand. As a graduate you are just starting out in your career but it’s never too early to start thinking about your professional brand. Finding a job is not as easy as it used to be, we all know that, so learning how you can promote yourself above the competition is an absolute must.

So, the steps are:

  1. Establish a “home base” on a social media platform where people can find you – I recommend LinkedIn.
  2. Start to get recognized, firstly by connecting with peers and influencers in your professional sector both online and face-to-face.
  3. Share high value content with your network, that starts you on the path to being recognized as someone who is passionate and keen to learn.
  4. Create your own content and share with your network to start on the path as being known as an expert.
  5. Continue to promote yourself – but also promote others you feel have given you value, as people will often return the favor.

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Management

Is Work-Life Balance Making Us Less Productive and Lazy?

smartphone

Striking the right ‘work-life’ balance is still the talk of the town among workers of all ages and experience.

Job seekers, are no longer afraid to mention they have a home life, and that they won’t be married to the job.

Also there’s the realities of harmful stress on health and relationships, it has been a reality check for many of us over the years and now we value more freedom and flexibility often more than our pay packet.

Businesses have been slow on the uptake however that is changing albeit not through altruism  but from it’s huge cost savings in operations including less office space and technology required.

Startups can engage staff where they reside not necessarily where the business is located.   Still there remains  some doubt as to it’s real value to economy.

Are we losing overall productivity?   Is flexi-time, more holidays and remote working making us lazy?  If you don’t have to go into the office why would you and is this affecting team relationships and the sharing of information?

There are so many questions and no right or wrong answer.

Work-life Conflict

Why is it still a thing some 40 years on?  To find out we need to look at some of it’s drivers; namely technology and women.  The work-life conflict was first mentioned by workers in the UK in late 1970s and a few years later in the US and here we are today nearly 40 years later still flying it’s flag, women probably more so than men.

Women

Positive female role models and more women in the workforce, has kept the movement alive and well and some might argue it has been the driving influence of better employment terms, and pay. Only recently it was reported Canadian women are investing almost as much as men in the market now and that’s due to the shrinking wage gap, and lower unemployment, among other factors.

Technology

The use of systems that allow workers to be monitored while working remotely, has given the power back to the Business. Not only can they keep tabs on their workers and their productivity via software like online chat they can grab the huge savings less office space and services allows.

Hot desks are now the norm in corporate offices. Plus companies can also get away with providing less technology too. Hardware like desktops are less in demand now as workers can use their own computers.

BYODs

Workers in many industries are now encouraged to use their own hardware and software. This means some may use Apple while others use Microsoft and then there’s also the array of smart devices in use too.

BYODs (bring your own devices) can be secure in the workplace with firewalls and other security systems. They access company systems and software as well as their own personal assets. This technology leap is a big win-win for both the user and the business.

Final thoughts

The way we work is forever evolving and technology means we are more connected now than ever before.

Reading emails and texts in the evening or first thing in the morning and on weekends suggests we are probably working more, and we’re more productive with our time now than previously.

What we do know is nothing stands still. Change is inevitable, especially in business, and with technology. Soon everything will be using AI, so you can be sure there’s a lot more transformation in the way we work and where we do it just around the corner.

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Management

Work Times Are Changing For The Better

phone

Leaders in business have always had more leeway with their working hours.  They have never been restrained by the standard business hours most of us are contracted to do every week. You know what I’m referring to, most ‘wage-slaves’ i.e. employees, need to work Monday to Friday between 8am and 6 pm, for 40 hours a week.

Flexi time for workers has crept in, in many industries, over the years, particularly with startups and more forward-thinking organisations keen to get the work-life balance right. Remote working has been popular with these businesses, but any change to the norm has been slow progress particularly with the mainstream majority. Let’s take a quick look at the adoption curve which explains uptake trends.

Adoption Curve

The early and late majority is the big peak in the ‘rate of adoption’ curve aka diffusions of innovation.   This curve presents the way innovation (particularly in technology) is adopted by us – human kind and the curve is an illustration we can view and instantly comprehend.

Work times are changing but arguably it’s yet to become the norm with the ‘majority’, (the peak in the curve). There is some way to go before we see real change the times we work and for it to be part of our employment agreements.

Slow on the uptake

Business owners and their management have not been quick off the mark with remote working or flex time and there’s a perfectly valid reason for their reluctance.

Trust and accountability

A lack of trust and the ability to keep a watchful eye on staff, when they’re not in the office, is the main reason for the slow uptake of more flexible working hours and working away from the office.

Leaders are inherently naturally driven and motivated to put in the hours due to their status within the business, therefore working from their home or holiday is not a constant distraction. Their staff are likely to take more liberty with their new work environment and a lack of personal oversight has deterred many businesses to the leap of faith until now.

Technology

Technology is the game changer and it is empowering businesses, like never before. There are many tools like chat Apps, readily available to assist both staff and management’s trust issues.

Chat App

Staff can be hired in different locations and remote workers can be part of team meetings via conference calls.  Plus there’s the use chat bot software so the power and control is there for the business to watch over their staff.

More Flexibility

The natural progression of work is more flexible work times, as jobs also change.  The earlier risers can get their work done when they’re most productive, in much the same way as the night owls among us can log on and be equally as productive during the dark hours of the day. Rising early though has gotten a lot of attention lately.

Just look at the rising times of some well known Entrepreneurs.  BBC has recently done a story on the unorthodox waking hours of successful business owners, celebrities and famous people and questioned if rising early meant more success.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is up at 03.45am and Actor, Entrepreneur, Mark Wahlberg really uses the 24 hours in day to work for him.  Rising at 02.30am and going to bed at 7.30 pm.

No longer does it need to be daylight before we rise and get to work and it’s likely this way of living where we elect when we work during 24 hours of the day, will extend to the rest of us non super stars, as evidence suggests, when productivity goes up so to does the revenue and profit.

So as for the early bird does get the worm idiom, yes it’s real but for everyone and that’s why work times are changing as businesses need to be more competitive.  The desire to make more money will keep pushing the envelope in all areas of business and with the enabler of technology to track and measure us, it won’t be long before there’s no such thing as standard work times.

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Management

Giving Your Travel Business An Edge Through A Call Handling Service

people, calls

It is clear that the telephone plays a vital role in the day-to-day running of businesses, especially for a travel agency. With the development of digital technology, the telephone can now be carried by anyone in the form of a small hand-held device wherein you can call, chat or video chat with someone located on the other side of the world in real time, and seek and find information on just about anything through the internet, all at the touch of a button or a click of the mouse. This technological breakthrough has made being connected not only easy and convenient but also a must. But what happens when the calls continue to come even after work hours and even during holidays?

If you take a close look at a business such as a travel agency, this is exactly the type of organisation that can really benefit from a call handling service.

Taking Bookings

The primary role of a travel agency is to make airline ticket bookings, which is a role that a virtual receptionist can carry out from a remote location. Remote bookings are now made easier because of the Internet. The digital platform provided by the Internet makes it possible for a professional receptionist who is remotely located to book flights for clients. Because all travel businesses have to use a cloud-based online booking system, the call centre can easily access this, allowing the receptionist to have up-to-date information on bookings.

By having someone to answer phones for the travel business round-the-clock, none of its clients are left ignored. With just a call at any time of night or day, clients will be confident that a travel business personnel will always be around to book their flights once they decide on the schedule.

When you’re running your business remotely a virtual receptionist service can made a fundamental difference to your customer service.

Providing Information

A virtual receptionist would be able to answer queries about flight availability or enquiries on working out a connection to somewhere on the other side of the world, just as anyone would if they were actually in the travel agency office. This is a skilled job for anyone, yet it does not mean that the person must be located within the premises. In fact, many travel agents use call handling services as this is the most cost-effective way to offer a professional service to their clients.

Booking Holidays

While some travellers like to book their flight and accommodation separately, there are many who take advantage of the package tours on offer and by using a virtual receptionist who is fully-briefed on all available packages, they can make bookings on your behalf and the customer would assume the receptionist is located at the agency premises.

Busy Periods

Holiday season and other festivals are definitely busy periods for travel agencies and if your receptionist is stretched at this time, why not let a call handling provider deal with any extra calls? We all want to get away in the winter months and during the peak holiday season, you can use a call handling service and when things get quiet down again, you can put a hold on the service.

Holiday Cover

Even people who work in the holiday industry need a holiday sometimes and losing your receptionist for a couple of weeks could really put a spanner in the works. With an established call handling company at your beck and call, you are always assured that your customers will be greeted professionally and your business will not suffer.

Customer Satisfaction

If your main goal is to ensure that questions and requests by clients are paid enough attention, then hiring a virtual receptionist will be beneficial for you. A virtual receptionist is trained to handle calls courteously and professionally, so you are rest assured your clients are talking with well-trained people round-the-clock.

Profit Increases

With the top-notch quality of service virtual receptionists are giving your clients, you can increase your profit while saving on labour costs. Satisfied clients can bring in new clients through word of mouth. Plus, calls by those who are only available after work hours are also paid attention to.

Unlike in-house receptionists, virtual receptionists are paid only with the service they provide and once they provide it. They can answer large volumes of calls with unwavering amount of attention to every call.

If you run a travel agency, talk to an established call handling provider and they are sure to have a package that is ideal for your business, and if used as a back up to your directly employed staff, this service is an essential requirement for all businesses.

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