business people group at office

If you are an executive who has been slogging along at a job search without a strategy, you can feel like you have hit quicksand with no way to get out.

Stop wasting time on what doesn’t matter. There are three things you need to get right:

  1. Know Yourself – have the self-awareness to realize your strengths, preferences, work style and skill gaps
  2. Know Your Audience – understand how to present yourself to the right people in the right way
  3. Reach and Convince Decision Makers – find and persuade them to hire you or create an opportunity for you

These three “pillars” of your search can guide your direction and help you invest your precious job search hours in activities that will pay off.

I detail these three essential job search elements in my recent article on Forbes (click here) and give in-depth guidance to help you get to the bottom of them in my book, Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Value Proposition Workbook (click here), including an entire chapter on personal branding.

amsegal-0111-croppedAnne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume strategist, Forbes Coaches Council member and former practicing attorney. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook (available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local booksellers). To reach her, click here.

Image credit: Adobe Stock.

 

Untitled front coverKnow Yourself, Grow Your Career

Are you ready to create a self-guided vision for your career? Would you like help doing that?

Do you want to discover your own personal value proposition (PVP) equation and how it can help give you clarity and increase your professional worth?

WHAT IS A PVP EQUATION?

A personal value proposition equation takes into account your interests, values, preferences (collectively priorities), skills and talents (collectively strengths) and combines them with existing or potential roles that benefit from what you offer (market needs). 

Here’s the equation:

Your Priorities + Your Strengths +

Market Needs =

Your Personal Value Proposition

Often we are hyper-focused on one set of factors, based on our current situations and outlook for our careers, such as:

  • our strengths (actual or perceived),
  • our own needs and priorities, or
  • what we expect (without outside verification) is needed by employers or clients,

without truly understanding any of these in depth or considering how they work together. Know Yourself, Grow Your Career helps you analyze and synthesize each part of the equation, so you can bring your highest personal value to the marketplace. As a bonus, Units 9 and 10 of the book show you how to take your personal value proposition and turn it into an authentic and compelling brand and elevator pitches.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

Image credit: Adobe Images.

What makes a “good” photo is subjective and somewhat elusive, right?

When you are talking about art photography, yes. What appeals to one person may not make any impression on another. In the case of LinkedIn profile pictures, however, there are some basic principles that apply. I have addressed some of these in my earlier articles here and here, and in response many readers have asked me to post what I would consider “good” LinkedIn profile shots. So here are some great shots of four different men (credit: Adobe Images, not real profiles).

Remember that the tone of your LinkedIn profile photo should match the brand that you wish to portray. If you want to project that you have executive presence, your LinkedIn profile photo should communicate that (see images 1 and 2 below). If you tend toward the creative in your work – regardless of your field, from visual, theater or culinary arts to science, technology or even (in some cases) finance – a more creative photo may be appropriate (see image 3 below). If you are a professional but more about substance than form and rarely wear a suit, you may wish to skip the suit in your profile picture (see image 4 below). In all, your LinkedIn photo and profile generally should be a calling card for who you are if someone were to meet you in “real life” (in a business context, of course).

IMG_0422 (LinkedIn size smiling man in suit)Successful black business man ceo downtown workspace proud confident arms crossedIMG_0418 (LinkedIn man in blue suit)An Indian business executive with folded arms

Remember that your LinkedIn profile picture will likely not be the same size as the original image, so pay attention to the background and finer details with an eye for the ultimate image as it will look when cropped to size. In image 3 above, the peeling paint (and tousled hair) add to the creative look of this shot, but otherwise the above backgrounds are interchangeable and not tied to the image each is hoping to portray. Some people like to have a background with more “visual information” while others prefer a clean, neutral look. Note that neither of the original shots for the first two images were centered, and in the second one the background could have been distracting in the original composition but it nonetheless works for LinkedIn.

Head And Shoulders Portrait Of Mature Businessman In OfficeSuccessful black business man ceo downtown workspace proud confident arms crossed

One last note, as I see this far too often on LinkedIn (and almost as much as a shot of someone with another person cropped out – don’t do that!). Make sure that when you take an image or have one taken of you, that the camera is or zooms in close enough to the subject so that the image does not look blurry or pixilated when cropped. Below is an extreme example, but I see this often with clients who have a spouse or friend take a picture and then send it to me for review. If you are out of focus, you will not project the confidence and presence that you wish to convey. 

IMG_0416 (pixilated enlargment man in suit)

This last image has another issue, of course, which is that it was cropped very close and has a very light background, so the person looks more like a talking head than a professional candidate.

If you would like to compare the do’s and don’ts of LinkedIn profile pictures, you can also visit my prior articles on LinkedIn photos here and here.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

 

At least once a week, I am asked to comment on a LinkedIn profile picture. As an executive coach with a prior background in art (in addition to law), I base my opinion not only on good taste but also on the principals of photography and design.

I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to give my readers an opportunity to view and contemplate some LinkedIn-sized and styled pictures before giving my recommendations and highlighting insights that each one can teach us about our own profile shots. In this post, I have included many of those prior images and more.

There are some of the obvious points, such as good focus and high enough resolution, that we can all see (if we are paying attention). But what else could we do to make our images even better?

If you clicked on a LinkedIn profile for this person with the image below – full disclosure: all of these are samples from Adobe Images, not from real profiles – would you be inclined to connect with him or her?

I give some feedback below that can help you understand how to look at images more objectively and improve your own profile picture on LinkedIn.

AdobeStock_129949762 (cropped at podium)

Some people like to have “action shots” that show them in leadership roles. To that extent, the image above works. However, pointing off to the side of the image takes the viewer’s eye in that direction as well, and away from one’s image and profile generally. It also makes this person look closed off rather than approachable. Further, the words in the background are distracting and do not add any credibility (compare, for example, someone on the Tedx stage). That said, an action shot that is professional and well-done can sometimes work well.

African American businesswoman

A lot of things are done well in this picture. It is generally well-cropped – it could be a bit tighter at the top – and the person is dressed professionally. However, she does not look happy in this shot, and the lighting on her hair and background is distracting. This is the most common type of picture that I see, i.e., one that makes the person look “good enough” to be happy with the picture but nonetheless does not show him/her in the best light (literally and figuratively). Some people don’t like to show their teeth, but you can smile more with the eyes in that case.

The above picture has the same issue with the distracting lighting in the background, although the lighting on the individual is better. This woman has chosen to have her hand in the picture, which sets it off as a more individualized shot and may be appropriate for certain fields where someone is asked to connect with people emotionally. For example, a therapist or a fiction writer may benefit from an image like this. By contrast, a litigator who needs to show an ability to meet challenging situations head on would not want to have an image that is too “approachable” or “soft.”

sailing man captainsailing man captain

Some people like to highlight their hobbies in LinkedIn profile pictures. Here’s my response. First of all, if you crop too closely (first image of two), you lose the entire point of the picture, and the various design elements end up looking distracting. This is the same point I would make to those who put up a photo with another individual cropped out of it (such as a shot at a wedding, with a spouse or significant poking into the side or corners of the image). The resulting image is similarly distracting and does not communicate that you are a serious, focused candidate.

In general, being too dressed down or too dressed up (think tuxedo for men, for example) may also give the impression that you are not willing to adapt yourself to a work environment but instead have your own agenda which will always or often trump the employer’s. So only if (1) one has an independent source of income, and LinkedIn is not a significant source of career or business leads or (2) these details are actually related to one’s career or business (e.g., if the man above were involved in marine work), would such a LinkedIn profile picture make sense. This is where the “LinkedIn is not Facebook” distinction comes into play. LinkedIn is about work, not pleasure, so wear your work face (presentation, wardrobe, etc.)

I should add that if you look closely at the man’s face, the top half of his face is in shadow and the bottom half is in sun. Once you notice this element of the photograph – as some of your LinkedIn viewers will do – the uneven lighting is quite distracting and casts a soft shadow (pun intended) on your attention to detail. In this image, it is not as pronounced as in other photographs I have seen.

Beautiful young adult lawyer business woman professional in a suit at the courthouse

There is a lot I like about the shot above. It is clean, interesting and engaging. But don’t miss little details. The red nail polish, that is, has got to go. It is out of character and distracting, and it shows a lack of attention to detail.

shutterstock_146589713 (resolve)

This is a good shot in many ways, although the person is not looking into the camera, and the cropping is quite close. In an artistic field (for example), this may be appropriate, but not in a corporate setting.

Asian man portrait

When I look at the above shot, I can’t help but wonder if the individual dresses like this all the time and if it conveys his “true self.” Not all of us need to be in suits, and some people prefer LinkedIn to express how they will show up every day. If that is your personal brand, then this sort of image may work. 

Waitress serving food to visitors

In this shot, the person’s shoulders are off-kilter, which is distracting and could subtly take away from her credibility. The background is also overwhelming – especially the lights – as is the lipstick. If this person were my client, I would suggest she try again with a new shot.

woman with brunette hair standing posing

For this last one, I would say watch the sleeveless look as well as the posture and “pout.” Again, LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Would you wear it for a meeting with the CEO? If not, it’s not the right look.

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership development coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon.com) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond. 

Image credits above: Adobe Images.

In celebration of Segal Coaching’s SECOND ANNIVERSARY (in four days, on April 1, 2017), I will be offering a series of free webinars in the coming weeks and months. 

bunte Luftballons

Each webinar will be 1/2 hour – short enough to fit into a professional “lunch hour” but hearty enough to be actionable!

The first one will be at 12 pm ET on Thursday, April 6, 2017, on the topic of:

Professional Hurdles to Networking

Click here for more information or to bookmark my page featuring webinars. Also, I am planning a series of small group coaching sessions on networking in Stamford, CT for May and June 2017. Please contact me if you are interested.

Thanks!

-Anne Marie

Photo from Adobe Images.

shutterstock_279619349 (rock climbing)
Think beyond your current experience.

Have you ever defined your highest “value proposition” – both to your current company and in general? It is not always a simple thing to do.

Another way to think about value propositions is to borrow a concept from the investing world. What is your personal ROI? What return on an employer’s investment do you bring? If your total compensation is $50,000, $100,000 or $500,000 a year (plus benefits), for example, is the employer’s investment worth it, and why?

Think beyond your current ROI. Focus not only on the experience you bring and what you have done in the past, but also the greater value you can offer.

We often let our job titles and duties lead our thoughts about our professional net worth, but our true value add to a company is not best expressed by what department we are in or what tasks we have completed. We need to think beyond that and take a look at what problems we solve, what we have accomplished and how we do the job differently (and better) than anyone else who could have held the same role.

Key value-proposition questions include:

1)  How does my role fit into the organization’s big picture?

2) If I left my role tomorrow, what gaps would need to be filled?

3) What have I accomplished in the last 6, 12 and 24 months?

4) Where do I consistently receive positive feedback? Is the feedback meaningful to help me define my unique strengths and talents?

5) What basic needs of my employer do I meet? Providing vision, generating profit, supporting growth, managing risk or something else altogether? Be specific as to needs and how you meet them.

6) Where do I want to move next professionally and how can it benefit me and my current/future employer?

Beyond our current companies, we need to ask how our roles over time fit into our long-term vision for our careers, including our values, talents, strengths, interests, competencies and risk tolerances. Many of us lead careers that we have not fully examined, and therefore miss finding meaning in our careers, which leads to dissatisfaction and ultimately does not let us reach our potential. Defining your value proposition in this larger context helps you understand yourself and your role(s) better, so that not only do you find a better fit, but you are better able to communicate your worth.

This larger definition of value proposition takes more time than most of us are willing to invest, which is why those who do invest that time and energy have a distinct advantage. As you think about your career, what has made you stand out in each of your various roles? Can you tie these together or do you notice a trend?

Takeaway question: are you passionate about the things for which you are known, and if not, how can you become known for the things you are passionate about? 

Even if you are not passionate about all aspects of your job, you can tailor it to bring the role closer to what you do find challenging, interesting and meaningful.

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She is currently completing her first book, on job interviews, which will be available in early 2017. To join her monthly mailing list and receive a preview of the chapter on value propositions, please click here and write “Book Preview” in the comments section.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.
Image from Shutterstock.

 

shutterstock_160082594 (dominos)Let’s be very clear, résumés are exceedingly important, but they are not everything. No one’s career chances have ever been made by a résumé. You need much more than a great résumé to succeed, and your entire value proposition as a candidate or employee is not locked in the document waiting to be read.

On the other hand, while a résumé cannot make your career, it can certainly break it. Résumés fail every day. They make a candidate look too scattered, too junior, too specialized or too much of any other trait that is undesirable in general or a particular case and not enough of what an employer actually does want. In the hundreds of résumés I read last year alone, I can say that the greatest point of failure is that the résumé writer did not step back and consider what he or she was trying to communicate.

When I say the “résumé writer”above, I don’t mean a professional résumé writer, who through experience and detachment generally possesses the big-picture perspective. (That’s a large part of why you might hire one.) I mean Joe, Sally, Larry, Latisha, Ricardo, Li-Shin and every other job candidate out there who is writing a résumé on his or her own. If Latisha doesn’t put on her “résumé writer’s hat” and Larry doesn’t put himself in the shoes of the reader, neither of them will be very effective at communicating through the résumé medium.

Why is this task of writing a compelling résumé so important? Without exaggeration, millions of employees worldwide are held in the shackles of their current employment, unhappy, unmotivated and unable to move internally or into new jobs, because they have not mastered the skill of communicating their value through their résumés. Millions of others are unemployed or underemployed for the same reason.

You have one or two pages to make your case. Without fail.

THE FOUR THINGS RESUMES NEED TO DO

  1. CONVINCE
  2. THE RIGHT AUDIENCE
  3. YOU ARE COMPELLING
  4. TO INTERVIEW

In certain limited circumstances, as a job candidate you are already a known quantity as a professional, and the résumé serves more of a “confirmation” function. Most of the time, however, the résumé itself needs to build your case.

In certain limited circumstances, as a job candidate you are already a known quantity as a professional, and the résumé serves more of a “confirmation” function. Most of the time, however, the résumé itself needs to build your case. As far as we have moved as a society into business-driven social media (LinkedIn profiles, etc.), in most professional fields the résumé is still the common currency and core document. We are a long way from the phrase “send me your résumé” being replaced with “send me your Twitter feed.”

Résumés fail because they don’t convince the right audience that you are a compelling candidate to interview.

#1 – Know Your Audience

When I work with résumé clients, the first point we tackle is knowing the audience., which is #2 above. To know who is your audience, you need to first know what roles you are targeting. In the attorney field, for example, a litigator résumé written to target a law firm won’t convey the key points if the candidate wants to move into an in-house role, public policy, human resources or education. The audience in each case is different, and what is needed to convince your audience that you are a good candidate is decidedly specific to each type of role. If you are writing a résumé on your own and in doubt about what your audience is looking for, the first step is to find out as much about the actual “work” of the target position. Job descriptions, informational interviews and other investigatory measures will help you clarify what is expected in each role.

#2 – Convince

Second, once you know your audience, your job is to convince the audience you are a good hire. Too often, candidates try to do this by putting more on the page. They don’t know what to emphasize, because they haven’t taken the time to get to know themselves or their audience, and they expect the reader to sort it out. The résumé in that case does not present a logical step-by-step narrative that walks the reader through the candidate’s strengths, talents, experience and value-add. The reader, of course, is busy and has much better things to do, like read the résumé of someone who has figured out how to write one properly (or get on with the business of actually working).

How do you convince employers to hire you through your résumé? Show them you can solve their problems and capitalize on their opportunities.

You can’t close the deal with readers/interviewers/recruiters/hiring managers/networking contacts if you can’t convince them you are a compelling candidate. And you won’t be a compelling candidate in most cases if you don’t know your own value proposition.

The most compelling way to close the deal is to know the problems, issues, opportunities, strengths, risks, threats, etc. of a particular employer (or class of employers) and present yourself as someone who can solve the problems and capitalize on the opportunities. Here are some concrete examples to make this clear. Imagine you had a class of jobs in front of you, and you needed to figure out what problems needed to be solved in each case: (1) the receptionist of a busy pediatrician’s office, (2) the safety manager at a manufacturing company, or (3) the execution trader for a hedge fund trading international equities. What are the so-called “pain points” of each? Does the doctor’s office need someone client-focused and organized? (Clearly.) Do they need to have experience in a similar setting? (Depends on what else they bring to the table and the employer’s biases, history of hires and successes/failures on that front.) What else does each role require and request of a candidate?

I have worked with many candidates who have not even considered what an employer’s needs are. So many, in fact, that I am no longer surprised by this omission of the key reason that companies hire in the first place – to fill a need.

Let’s think about #2 above for a moment – safety management. Say you want to move into (or move up in) this type of role, which is admittedly a very specific field. Here’s a sample job description (click here) from Lauren, an EPC contractor. If you were serious about this area as one or more possible targets for you, and this employer in particular, I would suggest you read related job descriptions to flesh out how “this type of job works.” While the present blog post is not about how to read a job description (stay tuned, one may follow), let me highlight a few key points that would help your résumé communicate that you a compelling candidate for this job or one like it. Start not with the writing, but with the thinking, namely:

(1) What does this employer do? At a very basic level, what is EPC (engineering, procurement and construction), what is the heavy industrial sector, and how does this translate into their day-to-day operations? 

(2) Who are their clients?

(3) What markets do they operate in?

(4) Who are their competitors?

(5) Since they are in a highly-regulated field that affects everything that they do, who are their regulators, what regulations are they subject to, etc.? (Note: see the references to OSHA, for example, in the job description. If you do not know what OSHA is and have not mentioned it on your résumé, you will be a very hard sell. Find a cheap training online, at the very least, to get you started, or do the research on your own. In other words, if you don’t have what you need, find a way to get it.)

(6) Note that all of the above points are about the employer. Only after you have considered the macro-view – what are they trying to accomplish and how does that play out? – then ask yourself the question, how does your targeted role serve to lead, manage and/or support the bigger picture? How can you help solve the employers’ problems, issues, opportunities, strengths, risks, threats, etc. How can you make them money, save them money, raise their reputation in the marketplace, keep them out of trouble or otherwise add value to the company?

#3 – Be Compelling

You will notice immediately that this is a completely different approach to résumé writing than creating a “laundry list” of what you have done in the past. If you are perceptive, you will also notice that “it’s about them, not about you.” Compelling candidates won’t just want to fill jobs because they need a paycheck. Compelling candidates are compelling because they move beyond what’s in it for them and are focused on what they can do for the employer. (Which is how and why we all get paid, after all.)

If what I am proposing sounds like a lot of work, it is. Yet if you cannot find the energy to be fully engaged at the outset of a job, how will you possibly summon it up once you are in the job? The same attention to getting you hired will keep you employed and progressing along your career. If you don’t have it and cannot create it, you are in the wrong field, industry or life.

Referring back to points 1-7 above, you may ask how each of these are reflected in your résumé, which is the decisive question. The art of writing the résumé is to translate the employer’s needs (without simply repeating words) to show that you have the “right stuff” to meet their objectives for the role and the company generally. If you are applying to a set of roles that are similar (e.g., safety management roles across a range of companies or industries), the communication of what makes you compelling may be quite similar for each employer that you are trying to “sell” on your candidacy. Keywords play a role, certainly, and the essence of a compelling résumé is that it allows the reader to picture you in the role.

The essence of a compelling résumé: allow the reader to picture you in the role.

#4 – Focus on Getting the Interview

On the fourth and last point of failure, résumé writers often forget that they are generally competing for an interview with their résumé, not yet competing for the job. In other words, not every single point about why a company should hire you needs to be in the résumé. In fact, it shouldn’t run on that long, lest you run the risk of coming across as a candidate who cannot succinctly and effectively communicate. Remember: the résumé is the appetizer, not the meal. Your résumé’s job is to convert the recipient of your résumé into a reader and then into an interviewer.

Once you have the interview, go back to those 7 points above (and others), and make the same sale all over again. Convince your audience you are a compelling candidate to hire.

Anne Marie Segal is a résumé writer and a career and leadership coach to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. You can find her website here

WRITING SERVICES include attorney and executive résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, bios, websites and other career and business communications.

COACHING SERVICES include career coaching, networking support, interview preparation, LinkedIn training, personal branding, leadership and change management.