How Branded Helped me Land a Job (and other interview techniques)

There are few things more disconcerting to any adult than being unemployed and unsure where the next job will be found. Oddly enough, though one of the original purposes of Branded was to aid in my job hunt, talking about unemployment and financial instability felt like a taboo subject during the search. The last thing I wanted a potential employer to read about were my insecurities as I sent resumes, interviewed, and scrambled for a semblance of employablitiy.

Obviously Branded isn’t completely work related. To paraphrase the “About” section, Branded is about a lot of things, not the least being perceptions and relationships. It’s about the questions, trials and errors that every twenty-something runs into as they flounder towards adulthood, and a lot of those trials and errors while amusing, are not professional in nature.

This of course leads to the question, was it a sound decision to include links to Branded on my resume, emails, cover letters, and my LinkedIn profile?

Yes. I stand by the decision wholeheartedly, and here’s why: the point behind including Branded was not to demonstrate industry knowledge. It was about showing personality. When I started looking for a job in Hawaii I was still living and working in Florida. I couldn’t fly out to interview. There was no way to establish a face to face connection with potential employers. The best I could do was try to give them a sense of who I am, and a blog was a good start to that end.

The next question is, did it work?

Yes. Straight up, no question about it, the reason I got a second interview with OrangeRoc is because someone read my blog, liked my personality and style of writing (grammatically correct sentences were a plus), and followed up.

Would I have gotten the second interview without Branded? Maybe, maybe not. I had a different set of skills that they also wanted (media planning), but I think Branded went a long way towards convincing her that she would like me before she even called me.

There’s a lot of concern about graduating college, being unemployed and starting to make your way in the world. I’m the first to admit how scary it can be, especially with a pile of debt on your plate, and the media doesn’t help. You can barely read a paper without running into an interview about an unemployed graduate staring down the barrel of a burger flipping future. While I’ll admit it’s a tough market, I don’t think there’s nearly enough emphasis placed on what job seekers can do to be successful. In 2 1/2 years, I am on my second job (by choice), both working in my industry of choice, and I found both jobs within the first 2-3 months of my “available” period.

Although not all industries are the same, and every person’s situation is a little different, there are some proactive ways to make yourself stand out. Here’s some of the things I did that I know helped me land the position:

  • I didn’t just use sites like Monster or Careerbuilder. I actively looked up agencies I wanted to work with and sent letters or emails, even when there were no openings posted.
  • This included stalking CEOs, HR managers, and EVPs on LinkedIn for contact information.
  • In one case I mailed out branded packages complete with a networking letter, resume, business card, CD with a PDF of my capstone project, and a post card sized insert directing them to my blog. All materials were nicly designed, using the same fonts, colors and graphics (including the address label and CD label), and printed on high quality paper. Yes, this cost money, but in the long run was cheaper than unemployment.

  • I created a website in both cases. Before Zimmerman I designed the website myself and paid for hosting. I don’t have it hosted anymore, but you can see what I created for the Hawaii job search at hawaii_bound.
  • I wrote a blog and linked it to all my professional sites. I linked facebook and twitter as well. Then I policed all my content and posts to make sure I always presented a positive image. Social media is already important to searching for jobs, and is only going to become more so as time goes on. Transparency in your personal networks as well as your professional ones, goes a long way towards establishing a rapport with a potential employer. Guideline – If you wouldn’t want your Dad to read it, you probably shouldn’t be posting it anyways.
  • I followed up incessantly. First, I sent a resume and a cover letter. A week later I would call. If I had to leave a message, I’d wait a day or two and call again. Once the conversation was started I emailed every two weeks. “Hi, I know you must be busy… just wanted to re-iterate my interest…etc.” You would be surprised how effective being a pain in the … can be.
  • This works best for a bigger office; I asked for the list of who I would interview with ahead of time. I walked in with generic thank you cards already written, hitting on one or two points about why I would be right for the job. On the way out I dropped them with the receptionist and asked her to put them in the office mail. Then I followed up with an email the next day.

I’m not going to lie, the techniques I’m talking about take time and work. It’s about always going one step further. When an agency in Hawaii asked me to fill out a questionnaire, I sent her videos as well. I picked 3 questions that resonated with me, and uploaded videos of the responses to a private youtube channel. I sent her the links, along with a PDF of the questionnaire. Some of them are a little long, but if you’re curious here are the links: IntroductionBest Describe Your ParentsLife Changing ExperienceDefinition of Teamwork.

(Side note – always send a PDF resume. A word document looks rushed and unprofessional, whereas a PDF has a much more polished feel. Also, you never have to worry about formatting getting messed up when you send a PDF.

I spent an entire Saturday on the videos. I spent more than one Saturday both times I made websites. Job searching in this manner is exhausting, and it requires planning. I started both my job searches 3-6 months before I would be ready to accept any position. I had rigorous schedules I set for myself after work every day and every weekend. I made lists and deadlines to keep myself on track. It’s not an easy way to go about looking for a job, but it is effective.

The crux of it is, you need to stand out. Companies aren’t looking for bland individual to add to their cubicle farm. They want someone who is well-rounded, has personality, and has the ability to advocate for themselves. If you don’t show that you’re willing to go the extra mile before you get the job, then they already know you won’t go that mile after you get it.

At the end of the day you just have to know what you want, and go after it with every spare second and ounce of energy you have.

-Bridget

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