Some people know exactly what they want to do in life. Madonna, Venus and Serena Williams, Steve Jobs, and countless others have been preparing for their chosen careers since they were young. Dylan Lauren, daughter of designer Ralph Lauren and chief executive of Dylan’s Candy Bar, could see her path even when she was young. With a father who was a fashion designer and her mother a photographer, she said, “I always knew I wanted to be a leader and do something creative as a career” (Olsen, 2009). Katy Thorbahn, senior vice president and general manager at Razorfish, one of the largest interactive marketing and advertising agencies in the world, always knew she wanted to be in advertising. Her father was in advertising, her uncle was in advertising, and she had an internship at an advertising agency, so it was no surprise that she pursued a career in advertising. You probably know some people like this. They know exactly the direction they want to take and how they want to get there.
It’s not that way for everyone, however. In fact, most people don’t really know what they want to do for a career or even what types of jobs are available. It’s a good idea to use the three steps outlined below to help you begin your career search. These steps can be most effective if you complete them even before you put together your résumé.
Step 1: Explore the Possibilities
Whether you know your direction or are trying to figure out what you want to do “when you grow up,” there are some excellent tools available to you. The best place to start is at your campus career centre. (If your school does not have a career centre, visit the library.) The people who work there are trained professionals with working knowledge of the challenges to overcome, as well as the resources needed to conduct a career search. People find that visiting the career centre in person to meet the staff is a great way to learn firsthand about what is available. Also, most campus career centres have a web site that includes valuable information and job postings.
At this stage in your career search, you might consider taking a career assessment survey, skills inventory, and/or aptitude test. If you’re unsure about your direction, these tools can help you discover exactly what you like (and don’t like) to do and which industries and positions might be best for you. In addition, there are many resources that provide information about industries, position descriptions, required training and education, job prospects, and more. These are especially helpful in learning about position descriptions and job opportunities within a specific industry.
Step 2: Create Your Personal Mission Statement
You might be thinking that you just want to get a simple job; you don’t need an elaborate personal mission statement. Although you may not be asked about your personal mission statement during an interview, it is nonetheless important, because it provides you with a concrete sense of direction and purpose, summarized in relatable words.
It’s worth your time to write a personal mission statement. You might be surprised to discover that people who have a personal mission statement find it easier to get an enjoyable job. This is precisely because a personal mission statement helps provide framework for what’s important to you and what you want to do and accomplish.
Step 3: Define Your Personal Brand
Choosing a career direction and writing a personal mission statement are not things that can be done in one day. They require research, evaluation, consideration, and a lot of soul searching. The same is true for defining your personal brand.
You’ve learned about the power of a brand in the selling process and that a brand can be a product, service, concept, cause, or even a person. Truly, the most important product, brand, or idea you will ever sell is yourself (Richmond et al., 2008, p. 1). You’re not just a person, you’re a brand. When you begin your job search, you will need to sell yourself to prospective employers. When you sell yourself effectively, you will be able to sell your ideas, your value, your experience, and your skills to get the job you want.
It’s easy to talk about brands. It’s harder to define one, especially when the brand is you. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about themselves. Others feel as if they are bragging if they are forced to put themselves in a positive light. The fact of the matter is, to be successful and stand apart from the competition, you have to know yourself and carefully craft your brand story (Klaus, 2008, p. 3). For the purposes of finding a career, it is important to carefully consider what you believe defines you—what makes you unique, consistent, and relevant—and how to tell your brand story to create an emotional connection with prospective employers.
If you identify three “brand points” you can tell a much more powerful brand story. Brand points are like platforms that you can use to demonstrate your skills and experience.
Examples of Powerful Brand Points
- Leadership skills. This provides a platform to describe your roles in leadership positions at school, work, professional, or volunteer or community service organizations.
- Academic achievement. This provides a platform to highlight your scholarships, awards, honours (e.g., dean’s list), and more. A prospective employer wants to hire the best and the brightest (if academic achievement isn’t your strong suit, don’t use this as one of your brand points).
- Sales (or other) experience. This provides a platform to underscore your contributions and accomplishments in your current and past positions. Past achievements are the best predictor of future success for a prospective employer so you can focus on results that you have delivered.
You can you see how specific brand points can make a big difference in how you might answer the question above; they help define your brand as being unique (no one else has this combination of education, skills, and experience), consistent (each one demonstrates that you are constantly striving to achieve more), and relevant (prospective employers want people who have these characteristics). Finally, the ability to communicate your brand story in a cover letter, a résumé, and an interview will help you establish an emotional connection with your prospective employer because he or she will be able to identify with components of your personality.
Building an emotional connection with the customer is very important and an excellent way to stand out to a prospective employer in an interview. The more you think about it, the more you will discover your personal FAB (feature, advantage, benefit) message. Your FAB message will help you tell the details about your brand and will help you tell your “stories” about your experience and accomplishments during your interviews.
Stories Paint Pictures
If getting the job or internship you want were only about the facts, you would only need to present your résumé on a job interview. But prospective employers are looking for that “certain something,” an emotional connection that helps them know that you are the one (Eisenberg, 2001). Every candidate comes into an interview trying to impress the interviewee and saying how much he wants the job. Why not stand out, show, and sell?
Table 1.9.1: Personal FAB Example
Brand Positioning Point
|Had an internship at an advertising agency
|I worked on the Limited, Too account developing Twitter conversations with target customers.
|I can help SpitFire engage its customers directly and learn about shopping preferences using social networking.
|Customer Service Experience
|Worked as a server at Olive Garden
|I interacted with customers and provided excellent customer service under pressure.
|I understand how to handle multiple tasks under pressure without losing my cool.
|President of Young Entrepreneurs Club
|I developed a forum for local investors to regularly hear pitches from student entrepreneurs, which led to the launch of three new products.
|I understand the process it takes to turn ideas into profitable businesses, and I’m able to be the driving force behind bringing people, ideas, and money together.
Every Picture Tells a Story
Take your FAB one step up and create a portfolio. A collection of work samples from class projects, internship, volunteer projects, and any other work that demonstrates your skills. that you can show during job interviews. When you tell someone about your experience and accomplishments, that’s good, but showing them really helps you stand out in the crowd. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, capitalize on the opportunity to sell yourself. Keep in mind that most companies interview at least two or three people, and sometimes more, before they make their hiring decision.
A portfolio isn’t just for creative or advertising people; everyone should have a portfolio. It is simply a collection of samples of your work from class projects, internships, volunteer projects, and any other work that demonstrates your skills (Indeed Editorial Team, 2023). Creating a portfolio is as simple as putting samples of your work in a three-ring binder. You might find it helpful to view this video about how to create a portfolio.
How to Create Your Portfolio
You probably have more samples of your work than you think. And each sample is an excellent way to show and tell your FAB. Here are some ideas about what to put in your portfolio:
- Class projects. Choose those projects that demonstrate your skills, especially in your major. For example, if you did a sales presentation, include a video clip along with your selling aids. Or if you created a PR plan, include the plan along with the exhibits. Group projects are acceptable as long as the group names are included on the title page. A team project allows you to talk about how you provided leadership to the team or helped the team get focused.
- Internship projects. If you had an internship or multiple internships, include samples of the projects on which you worked. For example, include copies of web pages, brochures, flyers, graphs, presentations, or other samples of your work.
- Volunteer projects. If you have been involved in a student group, community service, or other service organization, include samples of the projects on which you worked. For example, if your group did a fundraiser for breast cancer, include the flyer for the event along with photos and a summary of the contributions.
You’ve Got the Power: Tips for Your Job Search
- Keep a Copy. Whenever you work on a class project, internship, volunteer project, or any other type of project that demonstrates your skills, keep a copy for your portfolio. The same is true when you begin working; keep copies of all your projects to continue to build your portfolio throughout your career. You never know when you will need to show samples of your work. It’s best to avoid including any confidential or proprietary information from companies or organizations.
- Other work samples. If you enjoy photography, writing, design, selling on eBay, or other activity that has application to the position for which you are seeking, include that work. In other words, print the web page for your eBay store along with the feedback you have received, include photographs or other projects on which you have worked to show your work. If you don’t have samples of your work for your portfolio, consider starting a blog and print copies of your entries.
- Letters of recommendation. Ask for a letter of recommendation from former supervisors, colleagues, team leaders, professors, and other people who will be happy to write a letter about your skills (Indeed Editorial Team, 2023). If you have had a summer job or internship, ask your former boss and other people with whom you worked to write a letter of recommendation. Keep the copies of the letters in your portfolio and show them to prospective employers during your interview. Although these letters are different from references, they serve the purpose of showing your prospective employer how highly people regard you and your work. You will be asked for references after the interview process if you are one of the final candidates.
Tips to Make Your Portfolio Even More Powerful
After you gather all of your work samples, here are a few tips that will help you organize them for an effective visual story.
- Choose a few work samples. Select samples (no more than five or six) that reflect your brand positioning points. If leadership is important, be sure to include projects, results, pictures, and other visual elements that will demonstrate your leadership story.
- Create a summary page for each work sample. Include bullet points for the project name, objective, approach or strategy, and results. A sample is provided in Figure 1.9.2 “Sample Summary Page”. This will help you quickly summarize the key points when you are showing your portfolio.
|Rold Gold Pretzels Integrated Marketing Communication Plan
|Create an integrated marketing communication plan that will reverse the negative sales and market share trends
|Reposition Rold Gold and the cool, must-have treat for college students
|The three-person agency team presented the plan and won the class competition as judged by four advertising executives
- Use clean copies, in colour where appropriate. Avoid using papers that include comments or grades. Use fresh, clean copies of all samples. If you need to make a copy of an original document that was in colour, splurge and pay for colour copies; it’s worth it.
- Include extra copies of your résumé. Your portfolio is a great place to keep at least three or four extra copies of your most current résumé printed on twenty-four-pound paper. Although your interviewer may have already received your résumé before the interview, he may not have it handy when you come in. Or you may be asked to meet with some people that were not on the original interview schedule. If this is the case, you can be the consummate professional and offer your interviewer a reference copy of your résumé. It’s also the perfect time to mention your portfolio.
- Use a professional binder or portfolio. Visit a local or online art supply or office supply store and get a professional three-ring binder or portfolio. You can include your work samples in plastic sleeves, but it is not required. Many portfolios include plastic sleeves for your samples. Ask if the store offers a student discount.
Make It Memorable
As you develop your FAB and portfolio, think about the stories you want to tell about each one. Stories are much more powerful than facts. For example, “I can really appreciate what it takes to go the extra mile for a customer. When I worked at J&J Catering, they needed someone to mix the giant vats of cookie dough. Needless to say, I spent hours working with the dough, but I wanted to make it interesting, so I learned how ingredients work together, and I created a new recipe for lemon cookies that became the signature dessert of the company.”
A portfolio is a must to bring on a job interview. You might be wondering if it’s a good idea to also create an online portfolio. The answer is “yes.” Creating your own professional web site as a way to showcase your résumé, samples of your work, awards, and letter of recommendation is a perfect way to build your brand and demonstrate to your prospective employer that you have additional technology skills.
Your online portfolio, or web site, should include all the elements that are included in your offline portfolio. Since space is not an issue, you may want to include even more samples of your work, especially if you have writing or design samples. This is also an ideal place to include a link to your blog.
A word of caution: Your professional web site should be exactly that—professional. That means no personal photos, comments, or casual blog posts from friends. In other words, your Facebook page is not an appropriate place for your professional web site. Use a business-like domain name (http://www.yourname.com); if you don’t already have one, you can get one at Google or GoDaddy.com, for a minimal annual fee. The following article provides six steps to set up a domain name and your own web site.
Steps to Set Up a Domain Name and Personal Web Site
Use your online portfolio as a way to sell yourself on your résumé: add your web site address to your contact information and mention it in your cover letter.
How to Use Your Portfolio in an Interview
It’s always best to bring your portfolio to every interview, even if it’s an informational interview. In most cases, the interviewer will not ask you about your portfolio so you will have to bring it up in the conversation. The following video provides some tips about how to introduce your portfolio during an interview.
Be proud of showing your work samples. The Financial Times, in reference to Peggy Klaus’ book Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, wrote, “Start bragging…if you don’t speak up for yourself, who will?” (Klaus, 2008, front cover) To ensure that you are getting all of your FAB points across, it’s best to rehearse how you will review your portfolio in an interview. Keep in mind that time is short so it’s best to be concise and underscore the FAB points you want your interviewer to remember. A portfolio is an excellent visual tool that makes your FAB message come alive for your prospective employer.
“5.3 Selling U: Developing and Communicating Your Personal FAB” from Selling For Success 2e by NSCC and Saylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
“1.3 Selling U: Developing your Personal Brand” from Powerfull Selling (v. 1.0) by Andy Schmitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, except where otherwise noted.