Applied Reputation – Part 2
In last week’s blog post, I began a three part series on how to apply your reputation. Applied reputation is almost all that really matters when it comes to “personal brand,” which we seem to hear a lot about these days. We are told that everyone has a brand of their own, and that if we can clearly define it, or as my good buddy Steve Keller puts it, “capture its essence,” we will somehow be better off. But what does it mean to apply one’s reputation?
When it’s time to find a new job or ask for that raise, our reputations speak far louder than our words. If you have a product or service to sell, “word of mouth” is the most valuable means of attracting new business – first from people we know personally, and then from aggregate comments such as those we read in Amazon reviews, Consumer Reports or Yelp. This graphic published by Forester research just last week clearly illustrates the point:
Get it? But in order to apply our reputations, it certainly helps to know what that reputation is. Online businesses have the distinct advantage (or disadvantage) of being able to read the very reviews about themselves that will influence others. Negative reviews can be devastating, so any chance a business owner gets to respond to those critiques should be taken, and taken seriously. (We’ll get into the finer points of reputation management for businesses in the next installment.)
How do we know what our individual reputations really look like to others? As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, it starts by asking those people we feel closest to that very question. “What makes me unique?” “What do I do better than others?” and if you can stomach it, “where do I stand to improve?” That’s a really polite way of asking “what do I suck at?” And recording those conversations will help you remember accurately what was said by others, and also what you say about yourself. (You might be surprised!)
Once you have a firm handle on what makes you, “so you,” here are 4 more things to work on:
Tip 1: Prepare for your job search before you need your next job.
Many of us fail to take advantage of professional networking opportunities when we are happy with our current career situation. This can include “real life” events as well as making online connections. I cannot emphasize this enough… The happier you are in your job, the more confident you will be when connecting with others. There is no better time to make new connections than when you seemingly need them the least. Enthusiasm for what you spend the best hours of the best days of your life doing is a very attractive quality, and you will unquestionably have an easier time making a good impression when you’re proud of what you do.
As a side-note to this point, you may not have the luxury of loving your current job, and that may well be the reason you’re reading this now. Don’t fret. If you love what you WANT to do, you can still put on the charm. You’re in the danger zone if you are unhappy with what you do, as well as where you do it. Folks in this position need look no further than their local community college for some excellent job training resources for professionals in need of some additional support.
Tip 2: Use transitional moments to request references & reviews.
This relates to the suggestion above, but with a slightly different twist. When you are leaving a position, take the opportunity to alert your contacts through LinkedIn, and request a recommendation when you do. Here is a video that explains precisely how to do that in an effective, professional way. I have received more than 80 long-form recommendations from former colleagues, students and professional contacts almost exclusively by reaching out as I was leaving one position in search of the next.
Tip 3: Ask your friends for leads.
This is one of the most obvious, yet most difficult things for many of us to do when we’re on the hunt for new opportunities. Simply telling our contacts what we are looking for and asking them to help is by far and away the most effective way to generate new leads. It’s as simple as that. Don’t be passive. Don’t be shy. Just be polite, professional and direct. For example:
I’m writing to let you know that I have started the process of looking for the next great company/project, and wanted to seek your advice. I am wondering if you might know of anyone in a position to hire a swell fella’ like myself. I am on the hunt for anything in the marketing/communication space and would love to land at a stable company that puts an emphasis on teamwork and has a commitment to the community…”
Now, you can say whatever you want, however you want, but the point here is to be direct and specific. Depending on how well you know “Steve,” you can make it as formal or informal as you’d like. The point is, this person needs to know to know what you are looking for if they are going to be of help.
Tip 4: Disconnect from dead weight.
This one might land me in a bit of hot water, but what the heck… it’s 4:30am and I’ve been up for 3 hours. Let’s do this.
I recently sent out an email with an announcement about a seminar I will be giving on these very topics (and more) at George Fox University. I included some of the latest news about my company, Upriver Solutions, and did my best to make it lighthearted and interesting enough that anyone that I actually know in “real life” would find it worth reading… or at least relevant.
However, there are many folks we may have met along the way and drifted apart from, or simply failed to make a deeper connection with after meeting at a conference or networking event. (Have you ever looked through a stack of business cards wondering who half of these people are?) Inevitably, some folks will unsubscribe from emails of this nature if given the chance. (And you should always give them the chance, preferably by using a professional email service like MailChimp or Emma.)
But there’s one more step to take if they do. Remove them from your contacts on LinkedIn or otherwise. If they don’t care to hear about your career status now and then, they are not a professional contact worth having. Plan & simple. The vast majority of your contacts will simply receive your email and stop reading if they aren’t entertained, but those that make the effort to unsubscribe are, as the great Gotye would say, “somebody that you used to know.” They are no longer a professionally relevant contact. Move on.
Alright – that’s about 1,200 words in the general direction. I’ll finish this series up in a few days, and dig a little deeper into what companies can do to attract talent and grow their business by applying their reputations, just as each individual should by applying their own.
Thanks for reading, and hit me up with a comment below. Even if it’s just to unsubscribe.