Understanding and Presenting Your Best Self
in Social Networking and Job Searches

A Communications Guide for Managers, Directors and Executives

by Jake Aull   7/23/08

Introduction

Today the American business model is omnipresent, and marketing promotions are everywhere. Brands and their representations saturate daily business and have relevance to many communications. Successful brand strategies do not have to be restricted to companies and products, however. At the management and executive career levels, your daily self-projection and communications take on a different level of importance. You are constantly surrounded by people who weigh your communications, and judge you through various interpretations and applications. This occurs in the daily office as well as in networking situations, whether you’re searching for a new job or just maintaining personal business connections. You don’t have to fear your every word, nor is this a case for pessimism. Rather, the disguised benefit here is the chance to go through your own process of self-understanding, realize what you project and why, and determine and convey your own desired “brand” persona. While this guide is skewed toward the needs of higher-level job searches, it presents communication tips which can be helpful in all business social dialogues. This guide also focuses more on the approaches of those communications than identifying your best audience. In fact, understanding yourself and your objectives will help reveal your optimal targets as well.

Self-Understanding for Career Communication

You need a certain level of self-awareness as a manager or executive. Naturally, the vital details of this knowledge might change over the course of years, and it is important to keep your understanding current. One way to do so is through type indicator tests such as Myers-Briggs. Another way is to have direct, honest, self-discovery talks with, loved ones, professionals, or friends. Books such as Do What You Are by Paul Tieger can also raise your self-understanding and direct you to optimize such awareness in your career. Regardless of the method, it is important to remain cognizant of:

These items may not be as elementary as they seem. Talents may be very intangible but no less important than achievements. According to one reference guide on the Internet:

There are three basic categories for diverse talents:

·        Striving talents explain the why of a person — why they are driven

·        Thinking talents explain the how of a person — how they think, how they weigh up alternatives, how they come to a decision

·        Relating talents explain the who of a person — whom they trust, whom they build relationships with, whom they confront and whom they ignore (“Hiring”).

It is much better having passion guide you through the day than otherwise. “While skills and experience are important attributes that should be considered, talent and passion are even more vital to real job performance success and should be given greater weight” (Santana). Your personal missions should reflect your passions. An example might be a mission to inspire others, or to change the face of an industry. Part of understanding these attributes is realizing how you apply them in new or challenging work situations.

Personal Brands and Positioning

The above items require tough, regular questions of self-examination, but the consequential understanding directs your optimal, projected brand persona. “Your personal brand — that unique combination of your attributes and your achievements — is what employers will hire” (Taylor 71). Of course this personal brand cannot be a lie — it must be sincere. It must not cover up your faults, but project your ability to handle and conquer them.

 

One way to clearly communicate your optimal persona is through a brand core message. This message is crucial to identify, because others will be looking for it. Potential employers will “…ask questions during the interview process to find out more about each applicant’s personality… drill down and get to the real person” (Pollard). In personal discussions, this core message can be a small, loose compilation of ideas. On your resume or self-promotions, however, it might be a multi-sentence statement similar to a corporate mission statement or brand elevator pitch. It should clearly be in accordance with your objectives, but at the same time project your unique strengths. “Craft the message. What separates [you] from all others…” (Brownstein)? To go the extra mile and add credibility to your positioning, you could even “Write a book, or column or article for your professional association — differentiate yourself as a niche expert” (Feldman). No matter what the approach, your core message must be consistent, composed of the same elements and adaptable to various media. It should be part of your daily, intangible, projected persona, and translatable for social networking and job searches.  

Communication Strategies

Today American business professionals work in accelerated time frames. They also experience information overload from increasing technology deliverables. Advertising and noise in general fill their eyes and ears with specific communications that are soon forgotten to make room for the next batch of information. These and other elements conspire to make job searching and business networking more challenging today than in times past. To navigate this landscape of constant change, you must be clear of your specific objective and audience. Your objective may be landing a new job, obtaining a position in a voluntary organization, or even just building business contacts for the sake of networking. The objective also should reveal your optimal target audience. Write down both your objective and target audience as formal statements. You also want to plan budgets. How much are you willing to spend, in both money and time, to attain your goals? Or, more importantly, how much are your objectives worth to you? Finally, let all of the aforementioned factors, along with your personal mission and brand projection, drive your communication tactics.

 

Remember the importance of context in all of your written communications. The objectives and roles of specific media vary. Even so, you do want some degree of style and tone to reflect your brand. For example, if part of your brand involves your sense of humor, it can be beneficial to include light humor on your personal Web promotions. Using a lot of humor on your resume, however, would be inappropriate. The purpose of a resume is to give brief, direct, formal and factual information. It is a record of experience and qualifications. At the same time, your cover letter can include a more informal tone, or one that fits your brand. Your talents and engagement are those aspects which ultimately are invisible in experience records, yet these intangibles are crucial to your brand. If you focus on creating a writing style that you feel truly matches your conversational personality, then your passion will come forth. It is also beneficial to remember that a unique, inclusive writing style can distinguish you from competitors and make you more memorable.

 

As an executive or manager, you may subconsciously be conditioned to communicating to subordinates. Your communication style may be somewhat authoritarian, descending, and exclusive. You will certainly want to capitalize on your leadership strengths, but you must remember that, to meet your career objectives, you have to serve others first. Simultaneously, having an awareness of tone can help you find environments that could be a good match for you. For example, you may discover an organization whose promotional messaging matches your brand in tone and style. This may be the fit you seek, and your consequential two-sided communications can flow naturally.

 

Awareness of your target requires some degree of audience analysis. This knowledge, likewise, should help drive your various modes of communication. Your communications need to be somewhat self-expressive but not entirely about your desires. You must deliver benefits to the audience. For example, let your communications appeal to the target through your complementary personal attributes. 

Communications Campaign Tactics

Communication tactics start with your timing goals and budgets. Write your desired general time frame in a calendar format (which will eventually incorporate specific tactics, meetings and follow-ups). It is also important now to identify the specific media or meeting particulars for your communications. In all tactics, you must remember to remain consistent with your personal mission, your brand persona, and your core message. A good way to incorporate this is to always plan with the “Ws” in mind. In other words, ask yourself to whom you are communicating, why is this communication important, how it should be executed and valued, etc.

 

A common marketing approach today includes an integrated marketing communications campaign. Such an approach can give you a consistent message across several different touch points. These touch points can achieve multiple levels of exposure to your targets, enhancing their impressions and memory of you. For the goal of obtaining a new job, there is no singular, perfect tactic. A recent survey of executive level persons stated that: “…the top three sources for job interviews are: 1. Networking contacts (46 percent); 2. Internet job listings (24 percent); and 3. Unsolicited contact from a recruiter (5 percent)” (Hansen). Likewise, it can be very beneficial to incorporate various media tactics to meet your objective. Print media can be very helpful in facilitating networking introductions and follow-ups. These can include letters, business cards, and self-promotion cards — all projecting your consistent message and brand.

Online Communications

Additional tactics should utilize the growing popularity and abundance of online communications channels. These expanding opportunities are also regularly used by recruiters. “Recruiters are… finding ways to use the Internet to better connect with the most qualified job seekers. For that reason, the use of niche job boards and professional networking communities for recruitment purposes is growing rapidly” (Schramm). Also, employers are now using blogs for hiring communications. “Recruitment blogs are gaining acceptance with employers who find them fast, interactive and able to give job seekers a good feel for a company’s work and culture” (Hasson). Even something as basic as your outgoing e-mails can be integrated with your communications strategy. It is easy to set up an e-mail personal signature that includes a message tailored to your objective and brand.

 

Another intriguing, online channel available for your communications (and growing in popularity) is social networks. “Facebook has recently opened its service to everyone, regardless of… affiliation. A novelist I know was just advised by her agent to set up a Facebook profile to increase her online presence and engage in ‘relationship marketing’ with potential customers” (Fister). Social networks are also increasingly used for job listings. “Many organizations, including the CIA, use Facebook to post job openings” (Roberts). Recruiters are using social networks often and advertising listings as well (Shannon). Your ability to remain current with online communications channels shows your adaptability, espousal of new technologies, and creativity. That said, also be aware of your audience — if your targets don’t use social networks, don’t spend too much of your own valuable time there.

Voice and In-Person Communications

These channels are more traditional. Warm calls via phone, and follow-ups, should be a definite part of your communications plan. Face-to-face meetings are also crucial. At this point it is important to remember that you are selling yourself, but even more importantly, you are learning how you can serve others. ”...think about the hiring manager's goals. ...good selling is more than talking about yourself — it's about understanding the customer” (Taylor). Your uniqueness is only valuable to others if it can serve their needs. But it also can create a reciprocal state, an energetic exchange in business. As business guru Tim Sanders says, “Achievement breeds the situation for loving again. Appreciate and acknowledge others. Listen generously”.

 

Of course self-presentation is key for meetings. Your clothing and other physical aspects should be representative of your brand, objectives, and differentiation. However, even the formats for meetings and interviews can be changing in today’s climate. “Though videoconferencing may have the drawbacks of an emerging technology, it’s expected to be used increasingly in job interviews as collaboration tools such as Web conferencing gain traction” (Bolch 100-102). Even for traditional face-to-face interviews, some companies work to attract candidates in new ways. HR Magazine advises companies as follows: “To attract top talent, raise the interview process to the level of a fine art. Regardless of how candidates come in contact with Whirlpool Corp., initial candidate touch points ensure that they receive consistent, positively branded messages about the organization” (Weirick). 

 

Face-to-face meetings, whether in interviews or just networking, should be followed up with communicated gratitude. Oftentimes e-mails will suffice. However, be sensitive to the audience. Following a formal interview, a traditional thank-you card in the mail may be best. Keep a record of your meetings and your impressions. Just as you are trying to put your best foot forward and serve others, you are also seeking environments that match your brand and objectives. Don’t waste your time and promotions on environments that will not coincide with your plans or brand. At the same time, those mismatches possibly could be leads to a better fit.

Conclusion

The better you understand yourself and your business objectives, the more achievable your goals become. However, remember that networking and interviewing today are not like they were 15 or even seven years ago. To manifest your objectives, think like a marketer to develop a brand, a core message, and a communications plan. Learn and embrace up-to-date strategies and tactics for success throughout your career. Remember, successful communication stems from true understanding. Have fun with the process — every day is another opportunity to learn more valuable things about yourself and the world around you.

 

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SOURCES/Recommended Reading

 

 

Bolch, Matt. “Lights, Camera… Interview!.” HR Magazine Dec 2006: 100-102.

 

Brownstein, Marc. “Hiring Talent: Who’s Selling Whom These Days? Approach Recruiting Like a New-Business Pitch.” Advertising Age 28 Nov 2007

<http://adage.com/smallagency/post?article_id=122271>.

 

Feldman, Debra. “Never Have to Job Search Again -Network Purposefully!” Career Hub 26 May 2008

<http://careerhub.typepad.com/main/job_search/index.html>.

 

Fister, Barbara. “Face Value.” Inside Higher Ed 18 Feb 2008

<http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/02/18/fister>.

 

Hansen, Katherine. “New Twists and Turns Mark a Decade of Internet Job-Hunting: A Quintessential Careers Annual Report 2006.” QuintCareers.com 2006

<http://www.quintcareers.com/Internet_job-search_report.html>.

 

Hasson, Judy. “Blogging for Talent.” HR Magazine Oct 2007: 66-77.

 

“Hiring Talent.” MT.gov

<http://wsd.dli.mt.gov/local/missoula/msoguide/chapter2_pg3.asp>.

 

Pollard, Heidi Allexandra. “Hiring Talent On Attitude Or Aptitude?.” Ezine Articles 2008

<http://ezinearticles.com/?Hiring-Talent-On-Attitude-Or-Aptitude?&id=1075841>.

 

Roberts, Bill. “Social Networking At the Office.” HR Magazine Mar 2008: 81-82.

 

Sanders, Tim. “Tim Sanders, Love Cat.” Quotes. Posted by Hal. 7 Jun 2004

<http://www.reformingprojectmanagement.com/2004/06/07/372/>.

 

Santana, Joe. “Hire talent and passion over skill and experience.” Tech Republic 11 Nov 2002

<http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878-1054025.html>.

 

Schramm, Jennifer. “Internet Connections.” HR Magazine Sept 2007: 176.

 

Shannon. “Social Recruiting: corporate adoption of social media for recruiting and retention.” Exceler8ion 18 Feb 2008

< http://www.exceler8ion.com/category/job-search-20/ >.

 


Taylor, Jeff. Monster Careers ­ How to Land the Job of Your Life. New York: Penguin Books, 2004.

 

Weirick, Kristen. “The Perfect Interview.” HR Magazine Apr 2008: 86-87.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s note:

This paper’s format, including citations, were executed in MLA style according to:

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.

 

 

 


Appendix:
Comprehensive List of All Sources Researched for this Guide

 

Foster, Tom. “Hiring Talent” blog archive. Management Skills Blog 27 Jun 2008

<http://www.managementblog.org/archives/category/hiring-talent/>.

 

Brownstein, Marc. “Hiring Talent: Who’s Selling Whom These Days? Approach Recruiting Like a New-Business Pitch.” Advertising Age 28 Nov 2007

<http://adage.com/smallagency/post?article_id=122271>.

 

“Hiring Talent.” MT.gov

<http://wsd.dli.mt.gov/local/missoula/msoguide/chapter2_pg3.asp>.

 

Santana, Joe. “Hire talent and passion over skill and experience.” Tech Republic 11 Nov 2002

<http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878-1054025.html>.

 

Pollard, Heidi Allexandra. “Hiring Talent On Attitude Or Aptitude?.” Ezine Articles 2008

<http://ezinearticles.com/?Hiring-Talent-On-Attitude-Or-Aptitude?&id=1075841>.

 

Weirick, Kristen. “The Perfect Interview.” HR Magazine Apr 2008: 86-87.

 

Roberts, Bill. “Social Networking At the Office.” HR Magazine Mar 2008: 81-82.

 

Peterson, David B. “High Potential, High Risk.” HR Magazine Mar 2008: 86-87.

 

Hendrickson , Mark. “Snaptalent Targets Job Candidates Where They Work and Spend Time Online.” TechCrunch 12 Mar 2008

<http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/12/snaptalent-targets-job-candidates-where-they-work-and-spend-time-online/>.

 

Shannon. “Social Recruiting: corporate adoption of social media for recruiting and retention.” Exceler8ion 18 Feb 2008

< http://www.exceler8ion.com/category/job-search-20/ >.

 

Hasson, Judy. “Blogging for Talent.” HR Magazine Oct 2007: 66-77.

 

Schramm, Jennifer. “Internet Connections.” HR Magazine Sept 2007: 176.

 

Wells, Susan J. “Managing a Downturn.” HR Magazine May 2008: 51.

 

Meisinger, Susan. “Talent Shortage Challenge Must Be Met.” HR Magazine May 2008: 8.

 

Schramm, Jennifer. “Overseas Attractions.” HR Magazine Dec 2006: 128.

 

Bolch, Matt. “Lights, Camera… Interview!.” HR Magazine Dec 2006: 100-102.

 

Fister, Barbara. “Face Value.” Inside Higher Ed 18 Feb 2008

<http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/02/18/fister>.

 

Merkowitz, Rose Fisher and Garee W. Earnest. “Emotional Intelligence: A Pathway to Self-Understanding and Improved Leadership Capacities.” Journal of Extension Aug 2006

< http://www.joe.org/joe/2006august/iw3.shtml >.

 

Hansen, Katherine. “New Twists and Turns Mark a Decade of Internet Job-Hunting: A Quintessential Careers Annual Report 2006.” QuintCareers.com 2006

<http://www.quintcareers.com/Internet_job-search_report.html>.

 

Fletcher, Louise. “How is a job search like one political campaign?” Career Hub 24 Jun 2008

<http://careerhub.typepad.com/main/job_search/index.html>.

 

Feldman, Debra. “Never Have to Job Search Again -Network Purposefully!” Career Hub 26 May 2008

<http://careerhub.typepad.com/main/job_search/index.html>.

 

Sanders, Tim. “Tim Sanders, Love Cat.” Quotes. Posted by Hal. 7 Jun 2004

<http://www.reformingprojectmanagement.com/2004/06/07/372/>.

 

Boyatzis, Richard and Annie McKee. Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion. HBS Press. 15 Sep 2005.

 

Schwarzkopf, Norman.

<http://thinkexist.com/quotation/leadership_is_a_potent_combination_of_strategy/207376.html

 

Taylor, Jeff. Monster Careers ­ How to Land the Job of Your Life. Penguin Books. 2004.

 

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