Personal Qualities And Finding A Fit

Almost every job description lists the qualifications required by an employer. Education, experience and demonstrated skills make up the bulk of the posting and in some instances, that’s all that’s provided. However, if these alone are enough for an employer to choose the candidates who will succeed, there’d be no need for personal interviews.

So once education, past and present experience and required skills are confirmed, employers turn to their interviewers to size up the people before them as good fits personally. For you the applicant, this part of the application process can be most frustrating. Many people lament lost opportunities even though they met all the stated requirements for employment.

It’s critically important to be self-aware of how you come across to others; to know yourself. You may think you’re coming across as self-confident and assertive when in reality, an interviewer sizes you up as aggressive, arrogant, self-important or conceited. You might promote yourself as a team player, but the interviewer might have serious doubts about how your going to fit in with the existing employees based on how you’re coming across in the interview. This is especially true when you consider that interviews are typically where applicants are on their best behaviour.

Now as an applicant, you might not think this assessment of your personality and individual qualities is entirely fair. After all, you’re under pressure and may be one of those people who performs great on the job itself but comes across poorly in an interview. Who is to say that the person interviewing you and making a hiring decision is good at assessing personalities and ‘fit’ in the first place? Further, if the truth is that interviewers have made up their minds about an applicant in the first 3 minutes or less after first meeting them, how much information are they really working on to make these career-changing assessments?

As an applicant, I recommend you concentrate on the things you can control and not those you can’t. What you say and how you say it, how you dress, stand or sit, your eye contact, smile, advanced research, interpersonal skills, attitude, knowledge etc. – all these are within your control. So too are your tone and volume of speech, your vocabulary, warmth or lack thereof, tact and use of humour, insights, your handshake – again, all within your control.

I get that with so many things to think about, you might wonder how anyone could be successful! Thinking on all these things might just distract you from performing at your best and ironically result in you being passed over for jobs you’d otherwise be perfect for. This is the mindset of those who’d rather take the easy way and just wing an interview. They reason, “I can’t know what the other person is thinking can I? So I’ll just not bother or worry about all that stuff and just do the best I can.”

For some this is a cop-out; not wanting to really invest themselves in the time it takes to prepare for an important interview. They may not get the job anyway, so it could be a big waste of time; time they’d rather spend doing things they enjoy, and interview practice is at the bottom of the list. They figure that only one person gets the job and so there will be a lot of disappointed people; many who did do their homework and practice ahead of time – and they failed too. So why bother?

Why bother indeed? The answer is because preparing gives you a better chance of succeeding. The odds go up considerably for those who take the time to prepare. Preparation will help you figure out what kind of person does well in one job vs. another kind of person. Sit outside the place of employment just watching people come and go and you can learn a great deal about how people dress and interact with fellow employees. Do they seem happy, stressed out, robotic or engaged? Have a meeting with those doing the job you’d like to land and you can ask about the atmosphere, what it takes to succeed, desired personal qualities and this is all part of the company culture that is promoted as desirable behaviour.

Now, if what you learn tells you that in truth you’re not a good fit with an organization, think seriously about continuing to compete for a job there. You may fool some people and indeed get hired, but what if one of the people you fool is yourself? How long will you be happy and do you really want to be back job searching in 3 month’s when you and/or the employer decide the fit just isn’t there?

Want some solid advice? Get to know yourself. No, I’m not being flippant. Identify your personal qualities and ask friends, family and co-workers how you come across. Ask for honesty not flattery; the good and the not-so-charming. Be thankful for all the feedback you have and then armed with all you learn, start the hunt for the job and company where someone with your personal qualities PLUS experience, education and skills will be the best fit.

Way too many people ignore personal fit when looking at potential jobs and employers; yet its personal fit that every employer takes into consideration at every job interview. Unless they want a round peg in a square hole to shake things up, pay attention to finding the proper fit.

Communicating Without Saying A Word

Whether you’re unemployed and looking for a job or employed, your non-verbal body language is sending out all kinds of information to those within eyesight. What message you’re sending is entirely up to you of course; but pay no attention to ensuring the message you’re sending is the one you want to communicate and your lack of attention to this could harm you in ways you haven’t considered.

Even noticed the difference in how people move when walking? If you’re looking for a low-key but profitable way to spend your lunch hour, sit down with your lunch in a public space and people watch. Follow several passersby’s with your eyes – not just the handsome or cute ones! – and as you do so, be aware of the assumptions you’re making. When you see someone ambling along at a leisurely pace, their hands in their pockets, how do you perceive them? They don’t seem in a hurry to be anywhere.

Contrast the above with the person you see enter your view who is moving at an accelerated pace compared to others around them. They are walking briskly with one arm swinging at their side and the other clutching something that could be a document folder. Their head is up as they walk, looking for the clearest path in front of them, their eyes focused on what’s ahead of them. Again, what’s your brain communicating to you about them with little else to go on?

Did you assign a gender to either of the two examples above? Did you picture the first one with hand in their pockets to be dressed down from the second one hustling from point A to point B? Did you see the first person as enjoying the sunshine, making the most of their personal time on their lunch hour? Of the second, did you picture them still on the clock, obviously not on their lunch even though you’re on yours? Did the brisk walker seem to move with purpose while the ambling, leisurely movement of the first suggest at the moment they were in control of their time and what to do with it?

How you move says a lot to others who likewise make inferences about what you’re doing, your level of activity, the urgency or lack of it in how you’re going about things at the moment.

Now earlier I’d said jokingly that you should look at all people not just the handsome or cute ones. Think on that now though; what is it about how people dress, the way they move, the attention or lack of it that they take to their personal grooming, their facial expressions, etc., that attracts us to them? When we find ourselves drawn to someone do we sometimes also give them positive attributes and think positively about them before they’ve even uttered a word? Similarly, if we find ourselves disinterested or even negatively affected by someone on first sight, do we likewise perceive them negatively before they’ve opened their mouth to speak?

Our body language communicates much about us. We can seem dominant, defiant, submissive, reclusive, introverted, outrageously confident and non-conformist etc. In the clothes we wear, the tattoos and body piercings we may or may not have on display, the attention we put into our makeup, hairstyles, shoes on our feet etc.; everything about us communicates to others.

So all of this is important to acknowledge and understand when it comes to those times in our lives when making impressions on others is important to us. The job interview, meeting the potential in-laws, the date on Saturday night, your appearance in court, your friend’s wedding, the prom, spiritual gatherings, lounging at the golf club or yoga studio; we never stop communicating to others and all of it non-verbal.

The good news of course is that with some thought and attention, we are largely in control of the non-verbal communication we send out, hopeful that it is received by others in the way that is consistent with our intended message. Are you going for, ‘confident’, ‘professional’, ‘casually comfortable and relaxed’? Sometimes of course you may be told in advance how to dress. An invitation to a party might say that formal wear is in or the person setting up the interview over the phone might tell you that business casual is expected.

The best time to put some thought into your clothing and the image you want to communicate to others through your body language is always the same – now! When you know the kind of work you are interested in, you can safely predict with a high degree of accuracy the kind of clothing you’d like for a future interview. Now might be the best time then to get out and get that clothing together while you’re relaxed and not distracted with the pressure and stress of preparing for an actual one in a couple of days.

Be it a skirt or dress, formal suit, shirt and tie, getting things now – or at the very least budgeting now to acquire these items as you can afford them, will pay off when you go to the closet and they are there at the ready.

Remember, you’re in full control of the messages you communicate to others simply by entering their visual proximity. Best to make sure you give some thought now to how you want to be perceived.


Look At Yourself With A Critical Eye

Get yourself dressed in whatever job search clothing you plan on wearing and look at yourself in the mirror. In the privacy of your own home, this is the time to cast a critical eye over what you see and note things to address.

This is a good first step whether you are young or old; and age is only one factor you’re assessing in your outfit. This is also a good activity if you are checking to see what message your choice of clothes and how they fit on your body send. You might be in the right clothes but wear them poorly or fit them perfectly but be outdated.

Start at your head and work your way on down to your shoes. A full length mirror is obviously the best option here so you can get the entire view and the image it conveys. This is after all the look you plan on giving to the interviewer and/or other employees in companies you wish to work. You’re not only assessing your own personal look but also how well you align yourself with the other people who work there.

So how’s your hair? Whether you have a little or a full head of hair, it should be clean and groomed. Keep in mind that in the confines you are doing this exercise, there is no wind or breeze like you might encounter on the way to the interview. What will it look like once you get where you’re going? A good general rule is to ensure hair is off your face, so long-haired men and ladies should ensure no bangs hang over the eyes; you’ll only end up flipping it over with a toss of your head or with a hand; and this isn’t a Hollywood beauty shot. For guys specifically, make sure you clear up the scruff and stubble that you can’t see in the mirror that inevitably grows on the sides and rear out of your normal view. Trim facial hair.

As for your face, trim the nose hairs. Gross but give it a look. If you apply makeup, apply it in moderation with good taste (unfortunately this isn’t common sense). Moderation might mean less than you would normally. You want to impress them with your answers not distract them with so much makeup they wonder if you’re being authentic in other ways in addition to the makeup you’re hiding behind.

Speaking of hiding, and honesty is the best policy here, don’t expose your cleavage in an interview. Many employers I speak with – both men and women by the way – tell me that they frown overexposed cleavage. They wonder what you’ll dress like once hired, and having a discussion about exposing breasts is one they want to avoid so the easiest thing to do is not select the candidate in the first place. Too bad too, because some potentially good candidates don’t move on to the final job selection stage and are never told why.

If the job you are interviewing for has you wearing a tie, give it a look over too. Can you tie a knot or do you loosen it up just enough to pull it over your head? If you do, it isn’t looking as crisp as you think it is. Invest the 15 minutes it takes to learn how to dress yourself.

Look at your shirt with a focus on the buttons. If you see exposed skin where you shouldn’t it could be that either the shirt is too small or the fit for your frame is wrong. Be it the chest or the stomach, an ill-fitting top which exposes the flesh isn’t you at your best. Go to a clothing store with knowledgeable sales staff and get a proper fit.

Look at your sleeves with your arms at both sides. If you’re wearing a long sleeve outfit, do the sleeves extend past your wrists or possibly end too far up your forearm? When wearing a jacket over a shirt or blouse, it’s tasteful to have a little of the sleeve visible beyond the jacket cuffs.

As for the waistline, I know this is a sensitive area to talk about, however, you are looking with a critical eye. If you are overweight you can opt to lose some but that may be a long-term goal. For now, get into the right sizes and you’ll eliminate or reduce belt lines that roll over and outward, shirts that pull out of your pants or having to wear shirts over your pants. Many pants and belts now have flex capabilities, adjusting as you do.

Your socks typically match your clothing colours, although there is a current trend to wearing brightly coloured ones. Know the culture of wear you’re headed and take your cues from the workplace.

As for footwear, make sure you can walk, sit and stand comfortably in whatever you wear. Open-toed footwear is perfect for many things but an interview isn’t typically one of them. Whatever footwear you put on, ensure it’s clean and if leather, polished.

Clean your teeth, freshen your breath, remember the deodorant and pass on fragrances altogether. Clothing always looks better if ironed or pressed and check your clothing for animal hairs, lint, stains and odours if you’ve worn them previously – especially if you smoke.

Finally, smile! “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

Think Of The Implications Before You Click, ‘Like’

It happens innocently enough; you’re scrolling through your social Facebook feeds, looking at the various pictures and posts shared by your friends and then you see it. There on your screen is a post you find offensive but one of your friends has clicked on the ‘like’ button. You think, “How could they like something like that?!”

I’ve come across two such posts within a few days of each other, liked by two different people I count among my friends, and I’m perplexed in both cases. Both posts were similar in that they both were derogatory and directed at welfare recipients. The first one I saw read in large print, “Welfare isn’t meant to be a career choice.” The second said, “Welfare applicants should have to take a drug test. ‘Like’ if you agree.”

Both posts got shared with me because my friends had ‘liked’ them and they passed to me. In both cases, I see some bitter irony. One man has a family member whose full-time job is assisting welfare recipients by providing them with financial support. In the second post, the friend who shared it with me has a family member who is in a senior municipal management position and the municipality distributes social assistance. Are both these men’s opinions theirs alone or are they also opinions held by their family members? Oh and one of the two has himself been a recipient in the past of financial support!

Obviously the people or person who first created these posts feel that those on welfare should be restricted from receiving aid if they have drug issues, and everyone should have restrictions on the length of time they can receive benefits at all. I understand the idea of free speech; the principle of being able to share what’s on your mind and have your views heard. Here’s some more irony however; I replied to the first post about people making welfare a career choice, and the original poster must have decided my dissenting voice should be silenced, as my post was deleted from the thread.  Free speech goes both ways or it’s not free speech. Is the person deleting my view so insecure that they can’t tolerate a debate or differing view?

But it’s easy isn’t it; this clicking of a ‘like’ button?  Sometimes we move so fast on the scrolling that we read something and click, ‘like’ without stopping to really think about the implications. That’s a possibility for sure, and maybe my two friends did just that. On the other hand, they’ve made their views known, and this is one piece of information I learn and add to others that forms my overall opinion of them. When we see under posts, “John Doe” likes this we might even feel compelled to ‘like’ it too because John Doe is our friend. This is a lemming-like mentality however; we may want to be liked so much ourselves that we’ll do something as innocent as clicking, ‘like’ to be seen to be similar to our friends; peer influence and pressure.

There will always be people who post these things believing that they are only saying what ‘all of us’ feel. They get a lot of ‘likes’ too. I wonder though if the people who clicked ‘like’ were actually asked in person to comment on such statements if they would answer the same or differently?  What if Facebook evolved to the point where you could click on a feature that showed you all the things you and your friends liked? Imagine your profile included not only your name and picture but a summary section titled, “Here’s all the things John Doe ‘likes’”…

Somehow I think to see a summary of all the things we ‘like’ might be very revealing; revealing to us, our friends, perhaps employers too. Suppose that as a general hiring process employers visited social media, keyed in your name with the intent of seeing what you believe, what you stand for and your perspectives. After all, social media isn’t some private thing we all engage in; social media is public. So if it’s public, you knowingly consent to having your views, beliefs and ‘likes’ seen by anybody – and you’re comfortable with that. It hardly seems intelligent to say that it is somehow unfair for employers to screen your Facebook page, but anybody else is free to check out the things you make public.

So, following this logic… If the people who ‘like’ the idea of welfare applicants having to take a drug test before they qualify, I’m guessing they also, ‘like’ the idea of employers trolling their personal but public Facebook pages to see what they really believe before they qualify for the jobs they apply to. Seems perfectly logical. Do you agree or have I missed something?

What we post online that could come back to bite us is generally referred to as Digital Dirt. If you have pictures, comments and content that you think might be looked upon badly and you wouldn’t want an employer to see your views, clean up your own digital dirt. Just making something private on your own page doesn’t make it private if shared by your friends on their pages. Oh and if you think employers don’t have the right to check out your public social media pages you’d be wrong. They do have the right, and they do.

‘Like’ this post?

Your Photo Provokes Or Promotes

By now you are no doubt aware of the fact that the internet contains photographs of people all over the world. As you look at pictures of other people, and in particular people you do not know, you nonetheless undergo a rapid evaluation process. In a fraction of a few seconds your brain does an amazing job of filtering all your life experiences with people in your past who resemble this person you are looking at. Some of those experiences will be real life in-person interactions, and some will be ones you’ve only experienced in the third person through the movies or television. Your brain will even gather information from what you’ve viewed in a newspaper, a sports cast or the news.

The brain then takes all this objective data and then it produces an equally quick summary and you either find the person in the photograph safe or not. This is actually the brains way of keeping the body secure by sending us immediate cues advising we should steer clear of a person or giving us the all clear resulting in us lowering our caution. It can also trigger a pleasurable reaction, suggesting we are likely to have a positive experience with a person. And even though all you have to go on is a photo showing their physical body, you will find yourself attributing traits to people who may or may not actually fit with the person were you to get to know them. So they now appear friendly, warm, distant, cold, aggressive, intimidating, weak, shy.

Would you agree with the above? This is why so many dating sites have pictures of their clients included. As people, we infer and make assumptions about what a person is like often using the photograph as a starting point.

And it is because of this brain filtering process that it becomes imperative to think carefully about what your own photo communicates to most other people about your own qualities. Everything in your chosen photograph, from your smile or lack of one, grooming, choice of clothing, the background, your direct eye contact etc.; it all should be carefully considered to ensure that the feelings you provoke in others who view it will send the message you intend on communicating.

This process is a branding exercise if you go to the extent where you carefully craft your photo to fit with what you anticipate are the qualities and traits an employer is likely to find attractive in the people they hire. So if you are looking for an executive position with a large organization located in a prestigious location in the financial district, you can do some homework and watch the people who hold similar positions now. You can see their photographs in publications, on the walls of their offices, and on the internet. If you decide to dress like them, groom like them, pose like them, you make it easier for them to see you as one of them.

A friend of mine who is a suit and tie guy was on a business trip and the company he and his team were visiting said, “Come casual”. Casual for him was hard to determine. So the team all showed up wearing suits with ties. They met Executives at that company who were in jeans, shirts and no ties. All they could do at that point was remove their jackets, loosen their ties and unbutton their shirts. They were trying to ‘fit’ with the Executives they were meeting so it would be easier to conduct business. They were in short trying to assimilate.

So this brings me to your LinkedIn photo. Many people have no photograph at all, or they choose to use a design as their avatar, or a picture of an animal or object. In those cases, it is impossible to size up a person and get a read on them from the photo, but nonetheless people will make guesses based on their own experiences up to that point in their lives. So they may think the person evasive, has something to hide, weak or at the very best evokes no response one way or the other. While the person who is behind the non-photograph may if given the chance have a great explanation for the lack of a photo, they may never get a chance to explain this if they are passed over.

Here’s an exercise you may have already done yourself. Browse connections on LinkedIn and see if you find some people friendly, approachable or the opposite. When you see a blank avatar do you get any reaction one way or the other? Probably not because you’re not feeding your brain any data to work with to come up with an emotional response.

Another thing to consider is not only your grooming and the setting, but the quality of the image itself you are using. Some photos actually look aged and yellow, others are crisp. Consider too your posture whether standing or sitting. Are you holding a cat or baby in the photo? Why choose that one? What are you saying? While you may craft an image with your LinkedIn photo, look at what you post on other media. Employers have been checking out Facebook photos and the like for years to see you in your natural state.

Like it or not, agree or not, your photo will promote your attributes or provoke a poor response.

Companies Rejecting You Might Be Right

Because I’m an Employer Counsellor, I deal with people who are seeking employment on a daily basis. In addition to success stories where people get interviews and employment, again and again I also hear job seekers blaming interviewers and companies in general for rejecting them. However, if truth be told, I completely understand the employers point of view, and not only understand it, agree with their decision.

I have just met a client I’m working with in a group who is in his mid-twenties. He’s well-groomed, in good physical condition, has no transportation difficulties and has a decent resume. However, he is a most intense guy. He seldom smiles; his eyes seem to bore right through people he talks to, and his answers to mock interview questions demonstrate an articulate and wide vocabulary, but also are delivered with an arrogance and intensity that is unsettling. That intensity is never turned off and instead of coming off as self-motivated and serious about job searching, his self-portrayal is that of possibly being a walking time bomb.

Another person I am working with is a young man who claims he only owns and wears jeans. He’s (no pun intended) attached to his facial hair which he doesn’t keep trimmed but rather has let grow wild and patchy, and he’s resistant to making a change in either. Now while the job he’s going to eventually land is one in which he’ll probably be allowed to wear jeans to the workplace, the jeans he’s wearing daily aren’t even presentable in an interview situation. But as is the case with so many young people – and we’ve all been there – he knows best of course. I wouldn’t be interested in hiring him upon first impression, and an employer’s mind might be made up before he even takes a step forward to shake their hand.

Sometimes it takes rejection upon rejection for some people to realize maybe they don’t have the right answer, and that what’s really required is an attitudinal adjustment between the ears. Sometimes it’s not them….sometimes it’s you. Now don’t get me wrong. There are many people out there doing all the things right and still not getting interviews and employment. So how does a person know whether it’s them or not? Sadly, sometimes the people doing all the things right doubt themselves first and try new things when they should carry on while those that should definitely change their attitude and appearance or behaviour assume it’s not them that needs to change.

If you are working with the aid of someone who is trained professionally to provide employment assistance and is prepared to give you personal feedback, it would seem too obvious to state but you really should listen to all the advice you are given. Yes it’s true that some of that feedback will be flattering and reinforce your ego and your self-esteem. However, it is equally true that some of the feedback you may get is perhaps not what you want to hear, challenges you to change in ways that you may not have expected or don’t even agree with. To what extent you are willing to hear the advice and act on it, will determine the willingness of the person to give you further help too.

So what exactly does that mean? Well suppose you were given a major re-write of your resume which the person you were working with suggested. Rather than being appreciative, if you get defensive and revert to carrying on with your original resume because you think you can do a better job than the professional, why would they be interested in providing you with further suggestions on other aspects of the job search?

Remember that in trying to get an interview, it’s all about marketing yourself with your resume; your resume is therefore a marketing tool that presents you in the best way possible. The best way possible means that you come the closest to what the company is looking for. How you know what they are looking for is by reading job posting requirements, researching websites, reading company publications, meeting with company employees and asking questions. Read newspapers, listen to the radio, ask some of the companies clients and customers what they like or dislike about a company. If there are enough people telling you common dislikes, that may be an opportunity for you to fix that problem by presenting yourself as someone who can turn things around in that area.

When at an interview, give solid well-thought-out answers that show some interest and enthusiasm for the possibility of working there. Be aware of your posture and sit up and slightly forward in your seat. Look like you actually care about the prospect of being hired rather than the interview is an inconvenience and the interviewer doesn’t measure up to your intellect. This too is what another person I was doing a mock interview with tended to do; he looked totally exasperated and frustrated that he was being made to ‘make believe’. He thought he should just be able to walk in and tell them he could do the job and get hired. The chip on his shoulder is enormous.

Employment Counsellors and Career Advisors aren’t always right. Any of us that might say, “Do it my way and you are guaranteed to get a job”, are people to be cautious of because I don’t think we can ever make that claim. What we as professionals can do however, is increase your odds of getting interviews and job offers. Of course, that is if you are open to hearing and acting on the advice you receive.

Picture Yourself On Linkedin

Open up a Facebook account and roam around checking out your friends pages, and then friends of your friends pages, and you’ll come across many people who use images other than pictures of themselves as their personal Gravatar. Reasons vary but the usual reason is that some degree of privacy is desired. Isn’t that ironic when you think about it?

Now on LinkedIn, as you roam through connections and possible connections, you’ll notice a vast majority have their real picture attached to their profile page. If someone doesn’t want their image on their page, the trend is to not attach any photo whatsoever, rather than attaching some image of a Unicorn or Disney character and calling it your own.

The main reason you’ll see more real photo’s of people on LinkedIn is that when people want to connect with you to do business, or assess your potential as an employee, or take you seriously as a working professional, they want to know who they are dealing with. Your image or picture is part of your personal brand as it relates to you work/career professional image. Of course there are people who network professionally that use Facebook, but there are more who use Facebook for social networking; talking about partying last night, what they’ve been up to today, and upcoming plans for the weekend.

Now when I first created my LinkedIn profile and went to add a picture, I decided to use the camera on the laptop. So I laughed and clicked. Not the best quality picture I admit, but I figured it was okay to get me going. Sometime later, I got to thinking about whether or not I should get a better quality picture; a more professional picture to better reflect the person I am. However, one thing struck me and that was that while I might be tiring of the image, others on the internet with whom I am interacting are making a connection between that image they see repeated again and again, and me the person it depicts.

In other words, if as with Facebook, the profile picture I decide to use should change frequently, then there is less resonance with others. The picture is easily identifiable as representing me. It shows a happy, joyful person; and that’s essentially me. When you change your image frequently, you risk identity loss with others. Your brand in other words is not imprinted significantly on others perhaps in the way you might like it to be. Your brand then becomes one of constant change, perhaps uncertainty, maybe indicating a lack of identity you have for yourself. Of course you might argue your image is updated, stays with trends, and is fresh. Depends on the image or brand you are attempting to create in the mind of those around you and those with whom you interact.

Of course, from a business and networking perspective, I really want to see the person I’m communicating with. A person’s photo tells me something of their personality, their state of mind. I for one am big on smiles and find them attracting. A serious face with no trace of a smile I find interesting, but I’m not drawn to having a conversation with the anticipation that the person may be welcoming. Then there’s the photo itself; a full body shot or a head shot? Is the background distracting, of interest, support the person’s career ambitions in any way, or does it appear to be a shot from their vacation?

Think about your own image and your own picture. When you connect with people who you don’t personally know, but would like to get to know them because of their position, or the companies they work for, do you consider their photo as part of your criteria in connecting? Put yourself in the position of say, a Recruiter checking out your profile. What does your profile and your photo say about you? It’s like trying to sell your house really; sure the information can be there in words but people want to see pictures of what it looks like. No photo’s and they might wonder why.

Now of course privacy concerns I understand. You might have had bad experiences with people just looking for ‘hot’ friends, or even worse trying to hit on you for dates and relationships. Maybe you’ve been trolled or stalked and don’t want too much of yourself on the net. So I get that.

My advice here is to put some thought into your photo attached to your profile. Whereas on Facebook you can include all kinds of photos that show you in various situations, your LinkedIn account has room but for one. Choose it wisely and change it or not at your leisure. What does your photo communicate about you?

Christmas Morning, Dinner, And A Job Interview

Do you have one of those kids who beats you out of bed on Christmas morning? If you do, you’re missing one of my favourite scenes, and it repeats itself once every year. The scene of course is where I’m sitting in the living room with the tree lit and as I hear my daughters feet thump to the floor telling me she’s awake, I stop whatever I’m doing and look to where she’ll make her first appearance so I can see her reaction to the presents, and that first magical moment of Christmas morning.

I will have gone to bed last the evening before, and there will be numerous presents arranged under and around the tree that she is not aware of; some wrapped, some visible, and much thought gone into placing each in such a way that the eyes can take in the spectacle.

By the time dinner rolls around, equal care will have been taken not only in the cooking of the Christmas turkey, but also in the presentation of the entire meal and table. The best linen is out, the table settings are carefully arranged around a centerpiece, the Christmas crackers on each plate, the trivets arranged and spaced evenly so hot dishes can be available to everyone at the start of the feast, and the ordinary salt and pepper shakers replaced with the festive pair brought out at this time of year. Nothing is left to chance.

Now all this advanced planning and preparation, right from the composition of the shopping list to the last taste of minced pie and ice cream, has been carefully constructed. Putting that plan into action usually results in a less stressful day, more merriment for the host and hostess, and all who are present derive the best from what is on offer.

Turning to your job search or your role at work in an existing job, isn’t it equally important that you take the necessary time and care to craft your own image, your own brand, and in so doing, reduce your own stress? Of course it is. In supposing you are preparing for an interview, you should take the time to plan your strategy, how you want to be perceived, anticipate certain questions and devise possible answers to each. Winging it might be better left for your competition.

Get out your interview clothes and look them over a day or two before you’ll put them on. Is everything clean? Maybe your shoes could use a little polish, especially if the salt at this time of the year has caused salt stains to appear. Think about ironing that shirt, your skirt or pants, and think about the accessories too; your jewellery, watch and any purse or portfolio you might bring. Keep jewellery to a minimum.

That first moment when you walk in to meet the interviewer is just like that first moment I see the reaction on my daughter’s face on Christmas morning as she checks out the tree. I’m sizing up her reaction and get great pleasure from that few seconds, and an interviewer is sizing up you in a couple of seconds as well.

The interview itself is just like Christmas dinner. You get called in, you sit down, you exchange some pleasantries and you hope the initial presentation is excellent. Then each dish is just like a question at an interview with one main difference; you can’t pass on something you don’t like. If you are fortunate, after the interview, the interviewer feels they have enough and can make a decision based on what they’ve heard. Sometimes, you get called back for a second interview, just like you might get passed the turkey and mashed potatoes for a second go round. Negotiating your salary or start date is like telling the host the size of the piece of pie you’d like, and whether or not you want ice cream on the side, or which of the three desserts you’d like to sample.

Oh and you’d be best to remember to thank the interviewer for the interview akin to thanking your host for the wonderful meal. Good manners go well in each setting.

Think carefully now about your image you wish to convey. Set aside perhaps some clothes that you reserve for interviews to ensure they are ready when you need them. In addition to clothing, consider your personal grooming; your hair, for men your facial hair or lack thereof. As you put any Christmas gifts of clothing away, do so with care and hang things up properly so they don’t come out all wrinkled on the day you need them.

Here’s a glass raised to you and good wishes for a prosperous and successful new position in 2013 shortly to come!

The Not-So-Graceful Washroom Interview

Ever had a job interview in a public washroom? Maybe you have and you don’t even know it! (Oh great…one more thing to be thinking about as you prepare for upcoming interviews!)

Some time ago, I was in a large office building and made my way to the mens room. As I walked in, let me describe what I witnessed. Oh and ladies just to be fair, I’ve got a story from the women’s washroom to balance things out, but we’ll start in the men’s room. So I walk in and see this topless man, his massive back covered with black hair and most of it dripping with sweat. The guy’s shirt is draped over an operating hand dryer, billowing out in some attempt to dry the shirt. His pants are undone, presumably because he’s going to tuck in his shirt once he’s got it on. Some kind of novelty boxers are more than clearly visible, but I’m not looking long enough to identify him in a police line up later on.

This poor guy is using coarse paper towels and soap from the hand dispenser in an effort to wash his armpits, sloshing water on the floor around him and the soapy residue is raining down his sides endangering his pants and underwear from getting wet. His hair is just as wet as if he’s come right from the pool, and I can only surmise from the mass of wet paper towels on the counter that he’s somehow wet his head under the tap. Now to add to this scene, I hear him inducing a series of coughs followed by spitting, as the poor guy is doing his best cat imitation and trying to cough up a hairball. As I wash my hands beside him, he says, “Big Interview today.” My last part in this scene is to notice the huge scar on his chest, presumably from some surgery.

Okay ladies, your turn. A story from a few years back. A colleague of mine came back from the women’s washroom in shock and gathered a couple of us co-workers around to tell us what was so hilarious. She said there was this woman in the washroom who had taken up half the counter in the women’s washroom with a hair blower, makeup, hairbrush etc. and was getting ready for an interview. The woman was cursing and swearing out loud obviously upset with stuff she had thought she brought with her only to find that she hadn’t. However the verbal tirade of profanity was unrelenting and it contrasted with the image the woman was putting together. My co-worker said that she had heard people swear before, but this woman took the cake.

Now the irony here is that the woman was now in OUR reception room professionally dressed and groomed to perfection. When she was observed to get up and greet the interviewer a short time later, she had transformed into a very polite, well-mannered applicant who obvious was projecting a good first impression – at least she believed it was her first impression. That colleague of mine was one of the interviewers. She told us later that the woman looked very uncomfortable a minute into the interviewer when it dawned on her where she had seen my colleague a short time ago.

The poor guy in the washroom? Well I never did hear anything further about him. However the point to be made here is essentially the same; he had no idea who may have walked in on him and what information he was unknowingly sharing. Sure he was making a frantic effort to make a good impression on an interviewer, but he revealed a medical condition, and the grossly exaggerated coughing to bring up that wad of phlegm was less than appealing. Any interviewer who witnessed or overheard that would have a hard time ignoring that at an interview.

I do applaud both people for recognizing the need to take necessary steps and improve their appearance, which should by co-relation improve their self-confidence. Neither one of them would have thought however that had the person standing next to them might turn out to be the interviewer they were about to meet. So if you needed to make use of a washroom to do a substantial makeover, what should you do?

Well for one thing, consider using a washroom in an adjoining building, where there is a remote chance you might be seen, then walk across the parking lot or road to the office where the interview is being held. You might also go to an entirely different floor then your interview is on, reducing the chance of being observed by a potential interviewer, but it’s no guarantee. Always conduct yourself with some class and character.

From the moment you arrive at an address, act as if someone is watching you. Maybe somebody looks out the window of the building innocently, just as you blow your nose – without a tissue. Maybe the person you aggressively cut off in the underground parking to get to a free spot is your potential boss. Could be that the person you close the elevator door on while chuckling about it isn’t your interviewer, but the person beside you on the elevator is. No way for you to know.

So even when you are totally qualified on paper, and seem to answer all the questions well during the interview, it could be that your true nature, and the real you reveals yourself for who you are, and the interview was really conducted in the washroom prior to the interview. You were dead in the water before you rose and flashed that well crafted smile with those perfectly glossed lips and whitened teeth.

Branding Yourself

Branding is not a new term; in fact it’s been around for many years. However the idea of individual branding is something that you may not have thought about before, or have only recently heard about. So what is it, and how does it affect you personally?

By way of comparison, companies take great care to create in the minds of the consumer, an image that they hope will appeal to their target market. If done correctly, they will strive to ensure that every time the public thinks of the company, a consistent image or message will be conveyed which is desirable, and ultimately leads to the consumer buying the service or product being offered. The best companies will ensure that their employees are all aware of the message being conveyed, and take necessary steps to encourage each individual to carry that message in how they talk, act, dress and communicate with the public.

This works in reverse too. Companies that don’t see the relevance of consistently sending the same message, or put any effort into educating and encouraging their employees to deliver consistent messages, will lose on this opportunity, and the consumer gets mixed messages or may miss clues in society which results in missed sales.

Okay so back to you as an individual. Think about how you want to be perceived at work. For example do you want to be viewed as reliable? How about the woman who always has the answers? Maybe you’d like to be known as the guy whose always willing to pitch-in. Or do you want to alternatively be the office clown? The recluse? The cubicle hermit? As you read each of the roles above, a certain image came to your mind no doubt; some were positive and others perhaps negative. The images that your brain formed as you thought about the office clown or the woman who has all the right answers, have to do with branding.

Here’s the most important thing about branding and the one thing you can take away from this blog: Self-branding is entirely within your control. In fact, if you don’t consciously do anything about your self-branding and put any effort into it, it will nonetheless create itself in the minds of others. The only difficulty with letting it create itself is that no consistent message is crafted. Hence, it becomes a cluttered hodge-podge of mixed signals, and you cease to be thought of in any significant consistent way by those around you. In a sense, you are forgettable.

So crafting your image starts with some thought as to how you want to be viewed and thought of. This takes more than a few moments. Think if you can about your future aspirations. If you know for example that the place you want to be years down the road is in a Senior Management position in a company that values the bottom line, then perhaps you want to also start by focusing on results, improving production, working quicker and with greater efficiency. Maybe you should walk a little quicker as if walking with purpose. Mimic the dress code if possible of the people you aspire to be, so it’s easier for them to visualize you as an equal.

Crafting an image, or implementing an image change, is hard work. It’s not as easy as deciding that next Monday I’ll dress completely different, change my personality entirely, and become a different person. People might just think you’re having some kind of mid-life crisis. Start small, and after having decided on the kind of image you want to portray to others, move to implementing some changes. Do think about your appearance for sure. Should you put some effort into a new outfit, a new hairstyle? Changing a work wardrobe could be expensive and need to be done over a period of time. Maybe those T-Shirts you’ve been wearing would be best donated to a charity or saved for work around the yard.

Next think about your words. If your language skills need some brushing up, learn the company dialect. Find out what others talk about and do more listening than talking to learn from. If there’s some words being thrown around that you don’t know, or some acronym that’s new to you, find out what they mean. Read company literature, indicate an interest in helping out in projects that might stretch you a little, but possibly could bring some recognition to you and improve the company image or exposure.

Start associating with people in your office by expanding your network and relationships. Don’t dump your current friends and co-workers, because that’s just plain bad karma, but do your best to extend yourself into other circles. Those relationships can best be entered into with phrases like, “Can I help out?” or “My name is Jim, you’re in Finance I think aren’t you?” Both of these phrases might work even in the cafeteria line at lunch time. So the conversation starts innocently enough, leads to an invite to share a table, and some short time spent together. A day or so later, you again meet and now build on the previous meeting, always consistently being aware of the brand or image you want to craft.

It’s almost like how to make a friend or get a boyfriend/girlfriend 101. Same process. You know who you want to impress, you take a lot of time to dress yourself, groom yourself, and check yourself out in a mirror to ensure that the image you portray is spot on with what you intend. Same thing with creating your brand at work. Come in early everyday and be working when others arrive and you’re the dependable one whose not afraid to do a bit more than others.

Eventually, the self-branding you are striving and working so hard to create will become second nature, and it will appear to require much less effort to maintain. Never get complacent about your branding. And never stop assessing whether the branding your working so hard on is the branding that’s necessary to move forward from where you are. In other words, re-evaluate your branding.