Entries in Personal Branding (6)


The Upside of Being Googled

Back in January, I wrote about how potential employers now routinely Google job applicants, and the importance of being aware of what they will learn about you.  In response, one of my readers sent me an e-mail that illustrates the upside of being Googled. 

The reader has a friend who studied computer science at college, and as part of her studies the friend did some research on a somewhat obscure topic in the field and wrote a paper about it, which she posted on her personal web site.  Some time later, a major software company called her out of the blue asking if she was looking for a job and would be willing to come in for an interview, and she eventually ended up working for them.  It seems that the company was doing some research on the same obscure topic, and when they did a web search they came across her paper and were so impressed by it they wanted to hire her.

Being spontaneously approached by potential employer is obviously unusual, but this example does show that while there can be a danger to having your information out on the internet, it can also be a great opportunity when you are looking for a job or clients.

Put your best work on the web where potential employers and clients can see it.

This work can be just about anything you create professionally or as a student.  White papers, business plans, marketing campaigns, student projects—anything that shows off your abilities and knowledge.  In some case, your work will already be on the web, such as white papers posted on a company’s site.  But in other cases it will be up to you to make sure the material is up there, using any of the many free or low-cost hosting services.  And when you can, make sure that your work has your name on it, so that it will show up when you are Googled.  (Of course, for business reasons your current employer or client may not want you to publish some of the work you created for them; always make sure you have permission before posting anything created as part of your job.)

Once you have your work on the web, you can’t rely on a potential employer stumbling across it—not everyone will be as lucky as the friend with the computer science paper—and you can’t even be sure that a potential employer will find it with a web search.  So to make sure that people know about your work, tell them about it. 

For example, my husband, who recently changed careers and became a librarian, is currently engaged in a job search as he attempts to move from a part-time to a full-time library job.  In his current position he has been creating a number of online tutorials and guides to library resources, so the task of putting his work on the web has already been done.  But to tell potential employers about it, he has created a simple web page containing links to his best work, and includes the address on his resume.  That way, they don’t even have to Google him to see what he has been up to.


Be Memorable

Last month, I talked about the importance of always having an “I Wish” or elevator speech prepared so you can turn any social or business interaction into a potential networking opportunity.  But what makes a good “I Wish” speech?  Over the course of the next few newsletters, I will be giving some tips on how to create an effective speech.  Some of the tips will only apply to certain types of “I Wish” speeches—searching for a new job requires a different kind of speech than searching for a new plumber—but I’ll start with a tip that applies to just about any situation.

Consider these two “I Wish” speeches you might use at a party when someone asks what you do:

“Me?  I run a personal organizer business and help disorganized people get rid of their clutter.  You know, filing things and creating lists and such.”

“I make executives more efficient by streamlining their procedures.  I just spent the morning with a CEO who could never find anything in the heaps of papers on his desk, a complete mess.  Now everything has a place and it’s going to stay that way, and he’s getting a lot more work done.”

These examples are the kind of thing you might say if you are trying to drum up business as a professional organizer.  And if the person you are talking with is a potential client, either speech would do – if they are interested in such a service, they’ll probably tell you and you can go into more detail about how you can help them, or at least give them your card and follow-up at another time.

But much of the value of networking lies in letting others do your work for you.  If you can deliver an effective “I wish” speech, then anyone who hears it can become your proxy, thinking of you whenever they encounter a match for your wish.  With this consideration, the second of the two speeches is clearly superior.  By telling exactly who needs you (business executives who want to be more efficient) and by painting a mental image that will stick in people’s minds (the messy desk being cleared away), you make it much more likely that your listeners will make the connection the next time they encounter a disorganized executive who could use your services.

Make your “I Wish” speech memorable by being specific and creating vivid images.

Including specific details in your “I Wish” speech can bring to life what you are seeking, just as telling details can bring good writing to life.  “I want a job in the software industry” is ho-hum; “I want to be the lead programmer on the next YouTube” grabs people’s attention.

Similarly, an “I Wish” speech that creates a picture in the hearer’s mind is more likely to be remembered.  Don’t just say you’re a structural engineer; talk about making sure that bridges stay up in all kinds of weather, and make people see that bridge expanding and contracting with the heat and swaying with the wind.  When you tell what you do (or would like to do), tell it in a way that lets people picture you doing it.


I Wish....

Lately I’ve become something of an expert on Disney animated films, not because of any conscious choice on my part, but simply because I have a two-year-old daughter who has fallen hard for the whole Disney princess craze.  So in the past few months I’ve seen several of the Disney movies more times than the most dedicated film student has pored over Citizen Kane or The Seven Samurai.  Due to this intense study I’ve begun to notice certain common features in the films.  One feature found in most of the films is the “I Wish” song, typically sung by the heroine as the second musical number, in which she tells the world exactly what it is she wants from life.  Think of Ariel in The Little Mermaid singing “Wish I could be/Part of your world,” or Belle in Beauty & The Beast singing “I want much more than this provincial life/I want adventure in the great wide somewhere,” or even Snow White singing “Some day my prince will come.”  Of course, the “I Wish” song isn’t limited to Disney films, as it also appears in classic stage musicals such as My Fair Lady (“All I want is a room somewhere”).  The “I Wish” song tells the audience who the heroine is, and by clearly establishing what she wants, it sets up the rest of the action as she struggles but ultimately achieves her goal.

While I don’t recommend bursting into song during business meetings (unless you are a really good singer), you can learn something from the Disney heroines who tell the world exactly what they want.  The business equivalent of the “I Wish” song is the 30-second elevator speech.  The elevator speech is usually thought of as a condensed, memorable pitch for a new business idea or product, prepared and honed for that brief, make-or-break moment when an entrepreneur has the ear of a venture capitalist.  But an elevator or “I Wish” speech can be a much more versatile tool than that, and can help you in your business or personal life no matter what your situation.

Always have an “I Wish” speech prepared to tell others what you are seeking

You always want something that you need contacts to help you find, and you are always meeting new people, or getting reacquainted with people, in a variety of business and social contexts.  Having an “I Wish” speech allows you to easily and naturally draw on all those people (and all the people they know) to help you find what you want.  Whenever someone asks “And what do you do?” or “What have you been up to?” or even “Who are you?” you can use your “I Wish” speech to answer their question in a way that also lets them know what you are looking for, without sounding like a sales pitch.

Sometimes it’s easy to know what should go into your “I Wish” speech.  You may be an entrepreneur looking for funding. You may be looking for a new job.  You may be a consultant looking for new clients.  But an “I Wish” speech can be used for many other things.  Some of my clients have used “I Wish” speeches to get an introduction to a particular CEO, to find a mentor, or to find a good dry cleaner.  If you have an unpublished novel or screenplay in your drawer, perhaps your speech should be about your search for an agent.  Or maybe you need a good web designer for your business, or a reliable plumber.

The first step is decide what it is you wish for – your most pressing current need that someone else can help you with – and then figure out how to talk about it naturally in a casual conversation.  The next step is not to sing about your wish on some deserted meadow like a heroine in a Disney movie, but to tell it to as many people as you can.  Next month I will talk more about how to craft your “I Wish” speech and how and when to use it.


Got Google?

Have you ever been Googled?  This neologism, which is now recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary (“Google, v. […] 2. trans. To search for information about (a person or thing) using the Google search engine.”), has an interesting history.  Google, of course, is the wildly successful company whose search engine has become the de facto standard on the internet, and thus a new word.  The company’s name, in turn, is derived from “googol,” the term in mathematics for the number ten raised to the hundredth power, which could be written as the numeral one followed by a hundred zeroes.  “Googol” was coined by the nine-year-old nephew of a mathematician in 1920.

There is some disagreement as to why the company name is spelled differently from the number.  The company’s own website simply says that its “play on the term reflects the company's mission to organize the immense amount of information available on the web.”  But other sources suggest that the change in spelling is due to a mistake by the company’s first investor, who wrote a $100,000 check to “Google, Inc.” before the company’s founders had incorporated under any name.  The founders then quickly incorporated under the misspelt name so they could cash the check.

But back to the original question.  If you have ever had a job interview or a first meeting with a potential client, there is a good chance you have been Googled.  Learning about people by doing web searches on their names is now a common practice in business, so when you meet with someone, you should at least consider the possibility that they Googled you.

Google yourself periodically, and be prepared to deal with what you find.

Even if you have done little on the internet yourself, you may be amazed how much can be learned about you through a simple Google search.  And if you have been active on the net – keeping a blog, posting in discussion groups, sharing your photos, etc. – then you have provided a wealth of information for any potential employers.  Of course, how much can be learned about you depends in part on how common your name is – if your name is “John Smith,” then you will be lost in a sea of other John Smiths (though clever searchers can still learn about you by combining your name with other information, such as your address), while if your name is something like “Melissa Fristrom” then anything found is probably about you.

So what might you need to deal with?  Obviously, if someone has been posting libels about you, you may need to respond (and should probably talk to a lawyer).  More usual problems are things such as unflattering personal information (that blog you wrote in college about getting drunk and waking up in a stranger’s bed), intemperate remarks (the time you got into a flame-war and used rather strong language), or political activities (your arrest at an anti-war demonstration – which, depending upon your potential employer, may be an asset or a liability).  Or a search may reveal misstatements in your resume – but then, this is just one of many reasons you should never lie in your resume.

Since there are so many potential problems, they need to be handled on a case-by-case basis – there is no one way to deal with them.  In some rare cases you may want to bring up the subject yourself, so you explain your side of the story.  Other times you may want to deal with the problem indirectly – if there is information about unprofessional behavior in your past, don’t mention it but make sure you emphasize your current professionalism in your interview, and have references to support you.


Looking beyond your job

It seems that everyone wants to offer you one stop shopping.  Your cable company wants to sell you cable television, internet access, and local phone service.  Your bank wants to give you a checking account, sell you a mortgage, be your stock broker, and handle your life insurance.  And your supermarket not only wants to sell you any kind of food you might want, it also wants to be your florist, your pharmacist, your bank, and your video rental store.

While these attempts at offering one stop shopping can offer convenience, they don’t always provide the best goods and services, or the best prices.  When you want the best bread, you may have to stop at a good local bakery in addition to the supermarket, and the cheapest stock transactions may come from a discount broker rather than your bank.  You can get a lot from one stop shopping, but you can’t get everything.

Because we spend so much of our lives in our jobs, it is important to find a job that satisfies our own individual needs –  (Newsletter #7 A winning “Success Formula”).  But just as it is rare to find a store that truly offers one stop shopping, it is not always possible to find a job that satisfies all of our needs.  In such cases, it is useful to remember that while a job is an important part of our lives, it isn’t our entire life.

You don’t need to get everything from your job.

If you’ve decided what is most important to you, and can’t find a job that provides it all, consider what things you can get outside your job.  If you love traveling and meeting new people, you may find a job that allows you to travel, but if you can’t, perhaps you can find a job with sufficient vacation days to allow you to travel on you own.  If you have a strong social consciousness and giving back to the community is important to you, you may find a job with a social service element, or you may find that you are otherwise more suited to a different kind of job, and show your commitment through donations and volunteer work.

I had one potential client who contacted me because she was dissatisfied with her life.  Although she enjoyed her work as the leader of a new product development team at a technology company, she felt there was something lacking, and wanted my help in discovering a more satisfying career.  She was in her early forties, and was afraid that if she didn’t make a move now, she would be stuck with a vague dissatisfaction for the rest of her life.  But when I talked to her during the initial free consultation, I discovered that despite her professed dissatisfaction she actually loved her current job, since it met most of her needs – the opportunity to work on a variety of intellectually challenging tasks with smart people.  The only problem was that the job provided no outlet for her strong artistic instincts. 

Rather than working with me to attempt to find a new job that would use her skills, allow her to continue to work on a variety of intellectually challenging tasks with smart people, and would also have an artistic component, I suggested that she look for an artistic outlet outside of work.  She had always enjoyed paper crafts, and she decided to commit herself to taking at least one class in paper crafts a month, and devote more time to this hobby while continuing at her job.  She never did become a client, but I still count her as one of my successes, since she told me several months later that she was now happy in her life and her job.  She had it all, even if she couldn’t get it all at one stop.