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Oct 25

Online Tools to Build Your Brand & Grow Your Network

jason albaBack in the Stone Age, I remember coming back to my office from various networking events, manually transferring business contact information into my rolodex. Today, there are some incredible resources to help you organize your job search and grow your professional network if you know how to find them and use them to their full capacity.

Recently, I connected with Jason Alba, CEO and creator of JibberJobber.com, speaker and author of two books – I’m on Facebook – Now What? and I’m on LinkedIn – Now What?

I asked Jason to share his advice for senior military leaders in transition interested in growing their professional networks and updating their civilian job search strategies.

VSB: I have heard some suggest that separating from a long-held job, whether by choice or involuntarily, can leave one feeling a bit like a fish out of water. Is this typical?

Alba: Yes, a lot of people feel uncomfortable in a job search. It’s important to realize that the feelings you have during a job search are not abnormal. Whether you left your job after retiring from a successful career or you were somewhat blind-sided by a layoff, expect to feel a lot of different things. In my job search, I was unprepared for the range of emotions and thoughts I experienced; these got progressively negative as my job search went on longer and in a direction I had not anticipated.

In my own job search in 2006, I was frustrated with many things, one of which was the cumbersome spreadsheet I had to design in order to organize and track the contacts I made, jobs I applied for and the follow-up I needed to do. This actually led to my coming up with the idea for JibberJobber.com and that’s how I launched my current career.

VSB: Jason, how important is personal branding and how does one create a personal brand?

Alba: Personal branding has gotten a lot of attention in the last five years. People are still confused about what their brand is, or whether or not they even have a brand. I believe everyone has a brand, even and especially YOU.

Many jobs will be found through the traditional application process, and a brand might not have an impact at all. Other jobs, however, are found through recommendations and referrals, and that happens when someone thinks you are the right person to bring in. How others perceive you, ultimately, will impact your networking success.

I believe everyone has a brand, even and especially YOU. 

Think about branding with this simple example: You meet two people at a network meeting. One is disheveled and stinky, the other looks (and smells) good. Will you be inclined to recommend the stinky one? Of course you aren’t disheveled and stinky, but perhaps others perceive you to be brash, loud, boisterous obnoxious, or something like that. Guess what… that’s your personal brand, at least in the eyes of some.

You need to be intentional in creating your personal brand. Your brand may be different than what others think it is; I find this is most often the case. You have to figure out how to help people perceive you the right way. Anything from the words you say, to the words you write (how well you write emails, what your business cards look like, how your LinkedIn Profile is put together, etc.) to what you wear and how you talk with others will have an impact on your brand.

A great exercise is to ask friends, family, and colleagues how they perceive you. There are 360 tools that you can use to poll people to see what they think of you. Getting their assessment can help you understand how close you are to having it “right,” and see where you have opportunities to improve your marketing message.

Many people have a hard time thinking of themselves as their own marketers. I hate to break it to you but YOU are the VP of Marketing for Me, Inc. You have to own this title and do the job well, because no one else will.

VSB: Many transitioning military leaders set up a LinkedIn profile to put themselves “out there” but are unfamiliar with what to do once they have uploaded a resume and headshot. Do you have any recommended “do’s and don’ts” to help make the most of LinkedIn’s tools?

Alba:

  • First, you must have a good, solid Profile. This is pivotal to your strategy. Spend time on this, do it right, and then you will be ready to use it as a tool to do more proactive things on LinkedIn.
  • Remember that you can’t simply create a LinkedIn profile and adopt the attitude of “If you build it, they will come.” Don’t wait for prospects to find you. You have to figure out where your prospects are and then go to them. There are various tools on LinkedIn to help you do this, from the Advanced People Search to Answers to Groups.
  • Use LinkedIn as a branding tool. There are various ways you can share your brand and expand your influence on LinkedIn. From a strong Profile to your participation in LinkedIn Answers (both because of your actual answer as well as the “professional headline” that shows under your name,) you have many opportunities to put your brand messaging in front of your immediate and distant contacts.
  • Finally, go beyond finding and listing people. I see many people make lists of who they should contact but they don’t know how to reach out to them. I know it can be scary but you have to take the next step and reach out to these prospects. Otherwise, it’s like going to a hardware store, buying everything you need for a project, and then leaving it all in your garage. It’s not going to build itself. You have to take that next step.

I encourage you to take a look at my book (http://ImOnLinkedInNowWhat.com) or my DVD (http://LinkedInForJobSeekers.com) to help you maximize LinkedIn’s resources in your job search strategy.

VSB: How did JibberJobber.com come about and how can it help military leaders and their spouses as they transition into the civilian workforce?

Alba: As I mentioned earlier, when I was in the midst of my own job search in 2006, I knew there should be a better way to organize and track contacts, job applications and needed follow-up than relying on a spreadsheet. I got the idea for JibberJobber.com from systems that help sales professionals organize and manage their prospects, known as CRM systems.

JibberJobber.com is a great job search resource for military leaders and their spouses as they pursue job opportunities in the civilian workforce. It is an equally useful system for those who already have their own businesses, providing them with greater capacity to organize and track their client contacts and efforts to build those relationships.

Participating in JibberJobber.com is free at the basic level. Those who would like to try it out can easily sign up for one of the weekly user webinars at JibberJobber.com/webinar. Since 2006, I have also given a free year of the premium level to all veterans, and I’ve extended this to military personnel currently in transition as well as their spouses. You can sign up for this upgrade at JibberJobberUSA.com.

VSB: Any other advice for military leaders preparing to transition into the civilian workforce?

Alba: The most important advice is to keep your chin up, focus on the task at hand and if you find yourself in a rut and not making progress, ask yourself what you could be doing better and consider getting some help. I chose to pursue my next job on my own and feel, in retrospect, that was a big mistake.

You can find other advice from my past blog posts at www.JibberJobber.com/blog

 

 

 

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