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Job Seekers Should Create a 'Brand' for Themselves

March 21, 2013

Michael L. Diamond

Job seekers  

Job hunters should focus on perfecting their image, from their handshake to their Facebook profile, to build a brand with the same energy that McDonald's uses to promote its Golden Arches, an expert told Ocean County College students Tuesday.

They should be careful, however, to make sure the brand can fit into a workplace whose employees may span as many as four generations, said Cheryl Walker-Robertson, founder and chief executive officer of Protocol International, a South Orange consulting firm.

"Now if employers really want to know who you are, they read your resume quickly and then they read your social media sites," Walker-Robertson said. "Does that represent the best of you? If not, it might be time to make a few changes." Click on the thumbnail image above to see a video from the presentation. Using our iPhone app? Watch the video here.

The seminar came as job seekers have more opportunities in an economy that is beginning to emerge from a crippling recession four years ago. New Jersey added 66,400 jobs in 2012, its best showing since the high-tech bubble days of 2000.

In the middle of the new economy is a clash of new and old. Recent graduates are trying to fit in with old-school veterans. Technology gives everyone a chance to attract employers -- or, if poorly used, scare them away.

The transition is particularly dramatic for George Galesky, 28, of Toms River, an Ocean County College student who worked in human resources while serving in the Army. He is trying to find his bearings in the civilian world.

For example, he now has to think about issues others take for granted -- such as what to wear each day. And he has only found jobs working for security firms or pumping gasoline, noting he hasn't convinced employers that his military experience doesn't necessarily mean he's been in combat.

"People don't realize I learned other skills, like discipline" Galesky said. "I think I'd be a well-rounded employee."

Walker-Robertson reminded students to pay attention to old standbys: dress appropriately for the job, taking into account the company's culture; shake hands firmly, but not crushingly; sit up straight; smile.

But workers these days have other ways of promoting themselves that can contribute to -- or break -- their brand. Workers making profane comments on Twitter may get plenty of re-tweets, but also may be called into their supervisor's office with an admonition to tone it down. Workers with gauge piercings and sleeves of tattoos may be ideal for a role in reality television, but they also may get skipped over for a promotion.

It's a tightrope that students said they would need to learn to walk.

Erin Mathis of Stafford said she recently noticed that her black nail polish -- trendy among her friends -- was getting glares from people older than her.

Mathis, 19, can probably get away with it for now.

But when the professional world calls in a couple of years, "I'll definitely have to compromise my style for what's appropriate and what's expected of me," she said.

Source: (c)2013 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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