Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘personal branding

Which Unusual Job Search Tactics Actually Work?

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The news for job seekers has been something of a mixed bag recently: while the economy added almost half a million jobs in the last two months, the encouraging signs have tempted more people back into an active job search, driving the official unemployment rate to 9.9 percent.

Translated into plain English: companies are hiring again, but job seekers are facing more competition than ever before. Faced with that reality, people are using unusual tactics to get noticed. We rated four of those approaches for effectiveness.

Online Advertising

The Tactic: Advertising executive Alec Brownstein bought ads on Google for six of the top names on Madison Avenue. When those people did their customary search of their own name for press hits, the first thing they saw at the top of the page was Brownstein’s ad: a direct pitch for work with a link back to his own website, which features a bio and examples of his work. Here’s a video Brownstein created that summarizes what he did:

Vault’s Verdict: This tactic is nothing short of genius. Brownstein obeyed the number one rule of job search: identify your targets and get noticed by them. As his video states, he created ads for just five executives, resulting in four interviews and two job offers. And all for around six dollars, which is less than most people pay for postage on a traditional resume mailing campaign. To top it all off, Brownstein proved his effectiveness in the world of advertising by selling himself, likely leaving the executive to wonder what he could do with a brand. Once again, nothing short of genius.

Sandwich Boards

The Tactic: Since the onset of the recession, there have been several stories of laid-off workers hitting the street wearing sandwich boards to advertise their availability. The basic premise is always the same: attract attention from by-passers (and, likely, the media) and hand out as many resumes as possible. Examples of people who have used this approach include finance industry veterans Joshua Peresky and toy company executive Paul Nawrocki.

Vault’s Verdict: While this is a great way to get noticed by a lot of people, getting noticed by the right person becomes more about luck than judgment. There are certainly examples of people being successful using this approach, but it tends to take a long time: it took Joshua Peresky a full year to find work, while Nawrocki was pounding the pavement for two years before landing a job through more conventional means—networking at an industry-specific career fair.

Posters in the New York Subway

The Tactic: Subway riders in the Big Apple recently may have come across a poster from an aspiring actor by the name of Fabrice Yahyaoui that gets straight to the point. Featuring ten headshots, Mr. Yahyaoui’s name in huge type and a web address, the poster also bears the following caption: “This man is an actor. He [expletive] wants to act. Cast him.” (Click here if you have a burning need to see the poster.)

Vault’s Verdict: Mr Yahyaoui’s tactic relies on the same premise as the sandwich boards: if enough people see the ad, the right one might be among them. While the ad is certainly eye-catching, it is only the profanity that makes it memorable. That probably won’t hinder Mr. Yahyaoui’s chances of getting cast—and it may even help. However, the tactic may hurt him down the line, especially if acting doesn’t work out and he finds himself pursuing a more conventional career path—one where prospective employers do web searches prior to making an offer.

Social media

The Tactic: Social media doesn’t begin and end with Facebook and Twitter, and the tools aren’t just for teenagers: professionals of all stripes are increasingly coming to adopt some mixture of social media into their job search, using it for networking, to broadcast their skills, and even to seek feedback and peer review. One such example is Ashley Jablow, who is graduating with an MBA from Boston University into one of the worst job markets for graduates in history. Rather than sitting back and bemoaning her fate, however, Ashley has been doing everything she can to put herself in the shop window—including contributing posts to blogs that cover her specialty area: sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Vault’s Verdict: The way Ms. Jablow is using social media is a testament to its power and utility, and should pay off sooner rather than later. By making herself visible on blogs and websites relevant to her chosen profession, she is demonstrating her expertise to an audience that is already engaged in her field—greatly increasing the chances that someone with the power to make a hiring decision will find her. Rather than adopting the scattergun approach seen in the previous two examples, she is focusing on finding the right contacts, and branding herself as an expert into the process. Both of these things guarantee that she will stand out from the crowd, and give her a much better chance of success.

Don’t Let Your Career Go Down the Same Road as Hummer

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AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Inability to respond to a changing marketplace.

Failure to deal with the concept of dwindling resources.

Falling out of favor because of a shift in your perceived importance or relevance.

Lack of long term planning.

Each of the statements above aren’t surprising in a week where a deal to save Hummer collapsed, likely signaling the end of the once-powerful brand. Indeed, if there’s any brand that symbolizes the bubble economy, Hummer’s it–the only thing that sets it apart from other high-profile failures of the period is that it’s been allowed to succumb to market forces, rather than being bailed out.

Each of the statements above applies just as much to careerists in this day and age as they do to Hummer—and each, hopefully, are things that we should all be seeking to avoid, rather than things that are already affecting our careers. Here’s how to avoid falling into the same trap that crushed Hummer:

Look beyond your own industry for things likely to affect it

It would be easy to argue that Hummer was simply a victim of the downturn, and that being blindsided along with the rest of us is the reason the brand got into trouble. We’ve known for a long time, however, that oil is a finite resource, and that consumers are becoming ever more keen on using less of it to conduct their day to day business. Hummer chose to ignore that (unless you count the H2 as a concession to the fuel-consumption conscious). Similarly, turning up at work and doing the same thing day in, day out while blinding yourself to what’s going on elsewhere is that fastest route to career obsolescence. The need for continual career management and skills development has never been more pronounced than it is today. So if you see a new development on the horizon, learn about it.

Plan for the future, all the time

Even if you’re in a safe job, in a safe industry (is that exactly the same thing as saying you work in healthcare?), that concept of looking towards the future to try and perceive what an employer would want from you should never be far from your thoughts. And part of that lies in envisioning several versions of the future—something the folks at Hummer don’t seem to have done. (How else do you explain a luxury retailer having no backup plan for an economic downturn?) In good times, it’s very tempting to do little more than the basics of what your job demands. But going the extra mile even when you don’t have to can make the difference when the ax starts to fall during bad times. It’s about more than just branding yourself, though: you have to actually prove your value—something that the folks at Hummer just couldn’t maintain when gas prices started skyrocketing.

While it might seem a little strange to be comparing your career path to the rise and fall of a car company, it’s clear that there are similar concepts at play. If you consider your career to be an exercising in building and maintaining your own personal brand, considering the missteps of one of the most marketable brands of the last decade can definitely help you to avoid making the same mistakes—at least in principle.

Written by Phil Stott

February 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm

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