Category Archives: Written communication

Funky or Functional? The USP dilemma

Like a string of pearls your skills will be threaded through your life experiences and serve to make you unique

Creating an effective USP ( Unique Selling Proposition ) is key for any job seeker or career  changer. It a major, invaluable tool in the job search tool box and will serve as a basis for:

  • One sentence bio either written or oral
  • Your online professional profile tagline ( 100 characters on LinkedIn)
  • Any introduction (occasion appropriate!)
  • Telephone message
  • Twitter profile ( 160 characters)
  • Job fair pitch  (  MBA, entry-level)

Dreaming  this up is an agonising process for most of us.  We struggle to find a balance between finding something that is authentic, words that don’t sound fake, crass and pushy,  using keywords for online effectiveness,  but at the same time something that can be delivered verbally,  while conveying a benefit, in an occasion appropriate way. What might sound great in a networking meeting could clear a bar in seconds.  On top of this, we want to sound unique.  It’s really tough. How do we differentiate ourselves from  the thousands of  highly qualified  professionals, entry-level or MBA candidates who might be on the job market?

The following questions need to be addressed:

  • Who are you?
  • What  makes you special?
  • Where and how do you add value?

To achieve this, there is no way of getting around the basic career management and strategy tool of identifying transferable skills and gaining self insight.  I use the CARS method  ( Challenges, Actions, Results,  Skills)  also known as STAR.  I am always astounded by the number of individuals who actually try to create a career strategy without going through this process. But like a string of pearls, your skills and qualities will be threaded through your experiences and serve to make you unique. Tie these into you passion, vision, values and goals for an overall picture of what is YOUR critical make-up  Sadly, there are no short cuts and those that try to do just that, eventually become unstuck.   This means if individuals don’t know who they are and what they’re good at, how can they expect anyone else to know?

Funky or functional?
Some have a gift for personal insight and seem to produce the right words which reflect their personalities: ”  dedicated business development ninja” ,   “Pharma Research funketeer ,  successfully combines science ( PhD), business ( MBA) and innovation “,    “IT Solutions consultant,  marries the achievable with the sublime.

Others are more cautious about being bold with creative vocabulary. They also have a point,  as keywords in this part of  their online profiles generally carry a higher SEO.  Many frequently use a job title or student status, whether because they understand this, or they are simply less creative  – who knows. This is fine of course, but  clearly not unique. It is therefore a good idea to add one or 2 keywords to your jazzy content,  perhaps academic qualifications  ( PhD, MBA) ,  any certifications  (CPA, CIPD, LLM )  or sector titles  (business development, pharma research,  IT solutions).

Career Changers
Career changers can reference a previous career with a target role, function or sector   ”  Dedicated business  development ninja (Exec MBA)  aspiring to leadership role ”  , “IT Solutions delivery expert,  marries achievable & sublime,  passionate about  sustainable energy”,   “Pharma Research funketeer (PhD), business minded ( MBA)  innovative and creative, transitioning to marketing “.    

Generally, arriving at this short sentence takes a lot of thought and juggling with vocabulary. Research on LinkedIn and check out other headlines.    No one else can do it for you but getting feedback is always helpful. Do others perceive you in the same way as you perceive yourself?  Don’t be afraid to change and play around with your results until you get something you are totally comfortable with, provided of course  that you are not constantly changing your key message, tweaking is fine. It’s an organic process and nothing is set in stone. That is the beauty and a superb advantage of online content, it supports intuitive learning.

But don’t forget, it’s not enough to identify, create and articulate your key message – you have to promote it too.

Down but not out! The power of the past!

Snail mail can work!

Old methodologies can work! Today the pace of technological change is phenomenal and the process of searching for a new job has moved away from the more traditional methods towards online, electronic strategies. Tried and tested techniques once standard for job seekers are now becoming at best outdated, and in some cases, totally obsolete. Career coaches are constantly hammering home to job seekers how important it is in today’s job search market to keep abreast of the wide variety of job seeking tactics that are available to us all on the internet. Included in this list are professional platforms such as LinkedIn, online job listings, other social networking sites, company websites and so on.

Embracing change
However, there is now a half a generation at least, who know of no other way of looking for a job other than online. Older demographics are also starting to understand that change is inevitable and even the Luddites embrace parts of this brave new world, albeit reluctantly: posting LinkedIn profiles, joining Facebook, uploading CVs electronically and raising their online visibility. But younger demographics, mainly out of ignorance, can at times be just as closed to trying out something, not necessarily new, but new to them.

Other than seeing things on old movies or Mad Men, they are not familiar with, and have no experience of, job search processes that weren’t carried out via the internet. However, there are times when traditional time-honoured methods cannot be totally ruled out and can even bring some benefit.

Mr. Postman
I was working recently with a young man based in Buenos Aires. He is engaged to be married and wants to relocate to Europe, to at least be on the same continent, preferably in the same country as his fiancée, who lives in Munich. They had agreed that he would be the one to move: he was entitled to Italian nationality via his grandmother and could therefore work in the E.U. He also speaks 5 languages fluently, compared to his wife to be, who has a mere 3 under her belt.

Together we created a career transition strategy, identified his transferable skills, raised his general visibility and targeted the companies he would like to work for. Despite his best efforts, progress was slower than he would have liked, which was putting pressure on his relationship.

Long shot
So I thought and suggested (somewhat tentatively) that he could write some letters. There was a silence. Then the dialogue went something like this:

Pietro: – ” But I have written. I’ve sent all sorts of mails and LinkedIn messages”
Me: ” I know – but what about writing a letter, printed on paper ( I’ve seen his hand writing – not good. It would be hard to believe he is older than 9) put it in an envelope and post it in the mail with a copy of your CV. It’s something you haven’t done and might be at least worth a shot’
Pietro: ” Wow – you mean like a letter? Like in snail mail? That will take ages. How do I know they will get there, or anyone will read it?”
Me: ” Yes I mean like a letter, like in snail mail. How do you know anyone’s read your emails? You don’t. You could send a registered mail but that might seem a bit over the top for a CV! Give it a try.”

Long shot
So he did and 8 letters were duly dispatched addressed to the contact names he was trying to reach in his preferred target companies, giving dates of his next planned trip to Munich. During the next month he received by various means, 3 requests to contact the company to set up information interviews. Not a bad result for a long shot.

So there are things that we can usefully blast from the past and there are others that could prove difficult. I saw one old school suggestion of unannounced visits to a potential employer. Now 30 years ago that might have worked. Today it’s unlikely that any unscheduled caller will get beyond security, particularly in large organisations where even gate keepers have gate keepers. But in small informally run companies – even that might work on a lucky day . The visitor will find out soon enough if his/her presence is considered intrusive and they find themselves unceremoniously on the pavement.

Down but not out!
So the moral of the story is not to have a closed mind no matter what age you are and to assess all the tools in the job search box. Just as older job seekers have had to adapt to new ways of navigating the market, so Gen Y can learn from tried and trusted methodologies, which although mainly gone, should not be totally forgotten.