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Make it Personal: Opportunities, Interviews and Team Skills

Posted by Christina Schmitz on April 13, 2011

The following is part 2 of the three-part "Make it Personal" Leadership Series for PR and marketing professionals.

Once you’ve made the commitment to personal branding, social media and making your mark online, it’s time to bridge those activities to career planning, and discover what you can do to land lucrative opportunities and establish yourself in a workplace. 

Job Opportunities & Interviews

If you’re on the job hunt, chances are you’ve spent some time researching best practices for your interviews. What to wear, when to arrive, what questions to expect and what answers to have prepared.

Some of the best opportunities, with the closest matches to your skills and goals, you’ll never find on an online job board or website. Emerging companies and HR professionals are using tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to recruit candidates. 

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Your role as the interviewee is to match your skills, qualifications and personality to the job requirements and culture of the company. Don’t know both of these things coming in? Do research, follow employees on social media, and ask follow-up questions prior to the interview.

Following are other key things to consider in regard to making the interview a personal process:

1) Make The Personal Connections

Your potential agencies and companies, especially those that are highly active in social media, will have a wealth of information and content published, both at the corporate and personal levels. Research your interviewer online and find some common ground to start the conversation. People that make these connections have an automatic advantage. You don’t want your interviewer to have to tell you that you both went to the same college. Be prepared.

The other responsibility you have as a candidate is helping to bridge the story of you, and how you will write a new chapter for your company. It’s not about just meeting the stated qualifications, but what is new and exciting that you can bring to the table.

2) Paint the Right Picture

There are tons of solid resources out there about personal branding and putting your best foot forward online. Count on it that hiring managers in this industry will be researching you on the web and in social networks. The issues start when the real-life self doesn’t quite match up to the persona online, or vice versa.

It’s not enough to have a profile. Don’t setup a (insert Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog) just to land an interview. It is quite apparent. If you are a novice in this area, use the interview to learn more about the platforms, seek guidance and follow up with your usage.

Also, for your resume, make sure to customize it for the companies and positions you’re pursuing. This will help personalize your interests, but also from a technical perspective, make it easy to scan and match the keywords you’ve included. According to MCPc HR director Beth Stec, you only have five seconds to make an impact with your resume.

3) Be Humble

Easier said than done. I mean, you’re there to land a job in a highly competitive market, and have limited time to present your capabilities. Trust that there is a clear difference between displaying arrogance and achievement. You control this message in the verbal and non-verbal delivery of your abilities and work.

Having a professional portfolio not only shows your range, but also offers a great way to comfortably present your achievements. In this case, the work speaks for itself and you can share the story behind your best works. But don’t get fixated on lugging around those big binders of the past. An email with links, or resume site with online samples, is much more effective in today’s hiring processes.

Also, while you may be fixated on displaying your personal bests, don’t forget that there’s a good chance most of your work will involve a team. Talk about the ways you’ve performed in both a leadership role and as a valuable member of the team. Applaud colleagues you’ve worked with, or role models you look up to.

4) Show Some Enthusiasm

If you feel like you need to fake it, maybe it’s not the right opportunity for you or the company. If you’re genuinely excited to be interviewing and for the opportunity, let the enthusiasm out. The worst thing that could happen, even if you don’t land that position, is that you’ll leave an energetic, highly motivated impression with hiring managers who will remember you for the future, or refer you to colleagues.

Don’t forget to ask questions (prepare beforehand), take notes and appear genuinely interested in what the interviewer is saying. Non-verbals go a very long way in this regard.

5) Follow Up

Things like personal emails and cards are great, but go a step further and keep them updated of your career progress, or touch base on related items.

Also, try not to take it personally if you aren’t selected for a position. Timing may not be right, or they may be looking for highly specific qualifications. You never know where people end up, or who they are connected with. If you leave a good impression, you could be referred to other jobs, or contacted in the future.

A Strong Team Member First

Your chances of rising as a leader will depend on your ability to 1) assert your skills and knowledge, and 2) assimilate within the culture of the organization you choose to work for. 

You’ll be recruited for your leadership potential, and will be eager to hit the ground running and make an impact from day one.

My advice is to focus first on how you will be a strong contributing team member to the organization and culture you join. There are many factors that contribute to this, including the possibility of working with people from multiple generations. You may bring new and different skills, and an advanced level of knowledge and accessibility to information that complement the years of human and business experiences of your co-workers.

Also, by performing well in a support role, you can build the levels of trust with individuals that you will call on in the future. You also won’t undermine the current leaders before your time comes.

If you want to lead, you have to understand that leadership is just a concept until you have people that can experience the benefits you bring to the workplace. This applies to the real world, and the online world, which are becoming one in the same.

Whether through an extraordinary act, or leading by example, it will take courage to reach your desired position, but it’s never too late, or too early, to get started.

Stay tuned for part 3, Make it Personal: Recruiting Top PR and Marketing Talent, or view part 1 Make it Personal: Brand Building for PR and Marketing Pros

Christina is vice president of PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. On Twitter: @ChristinaCS

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