Q. I’m 48 and looking for a new job. There’s so much being said about our needing to know our “personal brand” as well as using social networks to get a job. Is this truly necessary? How has the job search process changed, and what do I need to do now that I didn’t before?
A. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Today, the job search process is a radically different endeavor from what it was 10 years ago, when you could call a recruiter in your field and have a few interviews lined up within the week. The landscape has changed in a number of vitally important ways: 1) generally speaking, there are far fewer jobs available in your field than there were 8 years ago, 2) if you’re over 50, it’s even tougher to land a great job than if you’re under 40, 3) the overall lack of job openings means hiring managers can hold out for candidates who are a near ideal fit, 4) if you’ve been out of full-time work for over 2 years, you’ll need to explore part-time and consulting work as well as a full-time position, and 5) with the glut of new technology tools for hiring managers (LinkedIn, Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com), it’s more than ever about “who you know and who knows about you” that will differentiate you in the competitive drive to landing a great job.
So how can you navigate these challenges successfully? Your best bet is to build a very powerful personal brand that articulates exactly who you are in the working world, and helps you stand apart from your competitors. These are not easy answers to find, but you need to tackle the issue of your unique personal brand so you can identify and go for great-fitting jobs and get your support network excited to talk to you and about you. In order to win jobs over your competition today, you have to know what makes you tick – how you’re different, special, and powerful in your professional role and functions. If you can only speak in vague platitudes about your work, you’ll go nowhere fast.
Where to begin? You can start by downloading my free Personal Brand Development Workbook from my new Amazing Career Project, and get started identifying how you stand apart as a “brand” – emotionally, aesthetically and functionally – as well as determine whom you love to serve and the types of organizations and individuals you want to support. Find 30 organizations you’d love to work for, and launch a campaign to build your support network and community both online and offline to help you. Develop your LinkedIn profile fully (download my free LinkedIn primer to get started), and start joining and attending as many association and professional meetings as you can to meet other like-minded folks who can support you in your job search, and to whom you can offer your help and guidance as well.
See also: Capitalize on Your Eclectic Experience
Social networks like LinkedIn are not a “nice-to-have” but a “need-to-have” in your toolbox. LinkedIn can connect you with literally millions of professionals today, so why wouldn’t you embrace it fully and do what’s required to stand out on it? (For more about what LinkedIn can and can’t do for your career, check out my recent Forbes post).
In the end, you have to throw yourself into your job search 1000% by understanding exactly who you are and what you stand for, identifying organizations that are a good fit, and getting the help you need to connect to these firms. You can do it, and your network will certainly help, but you have to meet it halfway and embrace these challenges as a means of being more of what you want to be in the professional world.