BRANDING, RESUMES AND GETTING HIRED

SELLING YOURSELF

ARE YOU A BRAND?

Coca ColaWhen we think of brands, what comes to mind?McDonalds

Are the Kardashians a brand?  You think of them in a certain way and they are distinctive.

Is Donald Trump a brand?   As an up and coming young real estate developer and entrepreneur, President Trump was branding himself even before the term “personal brand” was coined.President-Trump-Official-Portrait-620x620

WHAT IS A BRAND?

  • How you are viewed by others
  • What qualities and attributes do they associate with you
  • What kind of emotional connection or reaction do they have when they see you, your name, or your image
  • What are their expectations about you

WHEN YOU THINK OF MCDONALD’S, WHAT COMES TO MIND?

  • Inexpensive food
  • Fast
  • Predictable
  • Easy to Find
  •  CleanMcDonalds Meal

Its typical fare is flavorful with all of its salt, sugar, oils and fats that humans naturally crave.  Customers know exactly kind of experience that they will get.

WHAT ABOUT TIFFANY & CO.?

  • Expensive
  • High quality
  • Distinctive
  • AuthenticTiffany Ring

It makes you feel a certain way knowing that the ring you are wearing is from Tiffany.

YOU ARE SELLING YOURSELF EVERYDAY

  • When you ask for something, you are trying to persuade
  • When you ask someone to do something, you are trying to persuade
  • When you ask someone not to do something, you are trying to persuade
  • When you try to get someone to like you, you are trying to persuade
  • When you try to get someone to buy something, you are trying to persuade
  • When you ask someone to vote for you, you are trying to persuade

We sell every day, all day.

HIRE MEWoman being interviewed

*Looking for a job is selling yourself*

How do you differentiate yourself from other applicants?  You don’t necessarily have to be the best, but distinctive.  You want to stand out.  When all is said and done, an employer is buying you and your bundle of attributes.

EMPLOYERS LOOK AT YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

Flying Woman

Employers evaluate you by your personal brand and then make a decision about you.

IT IS NOT ABOUT WHAT THE EMPLOYER CAN DO FOR YOU

  • What do you bring to the employer’s table?
  • How do you add value?
  • Are you a team player?
  • Are you conscientious?
  • Are you punctual?
  • Are you a hard worker?
  • Do you follow through?
  • Are you helpful?
  • Do you have a good attitude?

Let me repeat it another way: When looking for a job, it is about what you can do for the employer.  Please remember that the prospective employer does not “owe” you a job nor do you “deserve” a particular job.  A job is first and foremost an economic relationship and transaction.  The employer seeks the benefit of your services while you seek the benefit of compensation.

The Employer is not going to pay you for nothing or for little in return. The Employer seeks value.  The initial assessment of  your value is in your brand.

A RESUME IS AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR YOUR BRAND

Billboard

Your resume is your mini billboard.  It is to tell the employer customer who you are and what you have to offer and why the employer should buy your services.

EMPLOYERS WILL USUALLY SEE YOUR RESUME BEFORE THEY SEE YOU

  • Resume is the first impression you make and may be your only opportunity
  • Resume is gatekeeper for first interviews
  • Resume counts a lot
  • Must get resume right

SHOULD TELL A STORY

  • Deep bucket of experience or expertise: For example – computer networks
  • A Leader: For example – you held officer positions, led teams, executed initiatives, solved major problems, generated creative ideas, or organized events
  • A service oriented person: For example  –  raised funds for charity, tutored kids or mentored individuals

Everyone has a story.

You want yours to be  readily understandable and compelling.

ELEMENTS OF A RESUME

  • Concise, not wordy
  • Major accomplishments (not a ribbon in second grade for having the neatest desk)
  • Use examples: “I supervised the acquisition and installation of a  new computer network for my company.”
  • Use active voice: “I prepared corporate tax returns” and not “the corporate tax returns were prepared by me.”

TAILOR RESUME TO EMPLOYER

  • A resume to be a managing director at a management consultant firm is going to look a lot different than a resume to be a CFO for a technology firm
  • One size does not fit all

Think  carefully about who your employer audience is and what they want to know.  Your having a boxed paragraph detailing your direct, relevant experience for the particular job is extremely effective.

CAVEATS

  1. Triple check for typos, misspellings, punctuation and grammar; better yet, have another person copyedit your resume
  2. Formatting should be readable and neat
  3. Use good paper if mailed or hand delivered; it’s called bond paper  (not copy paper); using bond paper is more elegant than copy paper and a sign of respect
  4. No smudges, smears or fingerprints
  5. If emailing resume, convert it to a PDF
  6. Use month/year for start and end dates for previous jobs: May/2016 to June/2017
  7. Always send cover letter with resume briefly highlighting why you want and are qualified for the job
  8. No photo
  9. Use key words in your resume that are obvious criteria in the job description so that your resume gets past automated screening

In sum, work to develop a brand and capsulize it in your resume.

 

Copyright © 2019 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.

RECIPROCAL COACHING

animal-3434123__480

By G. A. Finch

Have you ever set personal business, career or self-improvement goals, and you look up weeks and sometimes months later not having made progress on them?  You realize that you have been distracted and diverted by other challenges and tasks and your goals are in the doldrums.  Career, family and extracurricular demands get in the way.  Life happens.paper-3224643__480

You read, hear and know that you must set specific goals for yourself to get traction on your life’s ambitions.  You know further that it is preferable to have them in writing and with deadlines.  You know what to do, but it is not happening.

Try bi-lateral coaching.  Find a person you trust to be your coaching buddy.  You hold each other’s feet to the fire.  You meet to discuss your goals and why you have not met them.  You, of course, write them down with specific dates of completion.  You check in (preferably in person)  once a week with your coaching buddy and you tell each other what you have accomplished or not. Your goals may evolve over time.rottweiler-1785760__480

What is the effect of a coaching buddy?  Your knowing that you have to report to another human being on your progress toward your goals is a powerful motivator to get things done to achieve those goals.  It is called accountability.  What gets measured and reported gets done.  It is an inexpensive way to keep you motivated and on track.MH900071046

I am doing it now and it has helped to keep me focused and more on task.  I do not want to come up short when I report in to my coaching buddy, and, vice versa, nor does he.   It is a simple solution.  You do not need a drill sergeant or an expensive executive coach to kick you in the pants or encourage you – you just need someone to whom you made a commitment not to disappoint (other than yourself). For long range career development and holistic career counseling, an executive coach may be useful and needed.  For goal setting and execution, a coaching buddy is an effective tool you ought to try.

 

Copyright © 2018 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.

EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT PROVISIONS, LIKE LIQUIDATED DAMAGES, HAVE CONSEQUENCES – DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SIGNING?

By G. A. Finch

A liquidated-damages clause is a “contractual provision that determines in advance the measure of damages if a party breached the agreement.” Black’s Law Dictionary 949 (8th edition 2004).  The benefit can be that the difficulty and necessity of calculating and proving damages in court or arbitration are avoided.

Give back money

DAMAGES

When in early April I began to see news articles about a company that routinely utilized liquidated damages clauses in its employment contracts, I was intrigued because 1) negotiating and drafting employment contracts for executives or for companies which hire them are a substantial part of my law practice and 2) I rarely come across liquidated damages clauses when reviewing or drafting employment contracts for clients.

I think it is an interesting tool in an employer’s employment contract box to protect its legitimate business interests.   Generally, its enforceability will be driven by the particular facts of employment, the reasonableness of the agreed-upon damages, and the language of the particular provision.

Its apparently now controversial use by the company prompted me to review my considerable employment agreement files to assess the extent liquidated damages clauses were used.  I did find a couple of them in two fields: media talent and physicians.

man-2399982_1280

MEDIA TALENT

As I represent both employers and employees, depending on the particular client –  employer or employee –  I would advocate for or against such a clause on behalf of that client.

Although liquidated damages could be onerous for an employee, other clauses like non-compete, non-solicitation, confidentiality, payment-of-prevailing party’s-attorney’s-fees-if-party-loses-in-litigation, and out-of-town and mandatory arbitration, among others clauses, can be just as problematic for an employee.

I cannot be too sympathetic to employees who are penny wise and pound foolish in not paying for an employment lawyer to negotiate better employment agreement provisions for them including liquidated damages.  It is akin to “buyer’s remorse” and the employee can only look to himself for signing an unsatisfactory employment contract.

An employer has the right to protect its business interests and an employee has the right to advance his or her own economic and legal interests.  Everything is negotiable.

Now that I have your attention, you may want to know what exactly makes up a liquidated damages provision in a contract.  Although not ordinarily seen in employment contracts, they are frequently used in commercial and real estate contracts.

The law concerning liquidated damages may vary depending upon the state.  Using Illinois as an example, its courts state that as “a general rule of contract law that, for reasons of public policy, a liquidated damages clause which operates as a penalty for nonperformance or as a threat to secure performance will not be enforced.”  Jameson Realty Group v. Kostiner, 351 Ill. App. 3d 416, 423 (2004).

Illinois Supreme Court Building 3

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT

However, Illinois courts will uphold the validity and enforceability of a liquidated damages provision when it meets three elements:

(1) the parties intended to agree in advance to the settlement of damages that might arise from the breach, (2) the amount of liquidated damages was reasonable at the time of contracting, bearing some relation to the damages which might be sustained, and (3) the actual damages would be uncertain in amount and difficult to prove. Jameson, at 423.

A proposed liquidated damages clause in an employment contract could read something like this:

 

“If Talent leaves the company before the end of Talent’s employment term except for reasons set forth above in section __ of this agreement, Talent agrees to pay on demand to Employer one-half (1/2) of Talent’s annual salary as liquidated damages and not as a penalty, and the parties agree that such amount constitutes a reasonable   provision for liquidated damages.”

 

This fictional provision is an amalgam of two employment contracts that contained proposed liquidated damage clauses with which I was involved and represented the employee.   Now whether it would be acceptable to an employee is another matter.  Again, whether this particular fictional provision would be enforceable will depend on the particular facts and the particular state jurisdiction.

Of course, such a provision is put forth by the employer as a disincentive to the employee from leaving the employer before the end of the employment term or from violating a restrictive covenant like a non-compete clause.  It is up to the employee and employee’s attorney to negotiate the elimination or reduction of the liquidated damages amount.

 

Copyright © 2018 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.

 

LEADING BY READING

By G. A. Finch

It may sound trite but it is generally true that “leaders are readers.”  That is not to say that an uneducated person cannot be a leader in his or her own way; nevertheless, reading has its advantages. We have read or heard that Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, among many other successful business people, are/were avid readers. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson read books as far into old age as they physically could and prized their personal libraries. Benjamin Franklin valued books so much that he created the first lending library in America, and we know what a wise and accomplished man he was.

pexels-photo-12064

More recent presidents, like William Jefferson Clinton and Barack Obama, are known to like to pick up a book.  Whatever your politics may be, Clinton and Obama sound erudite, do they not?  Their knowledge enables them to sound more persuasive and sound more credible, does it not?  An effective executive seeks to become well read by reading often and reading a variety of genres.

Comparable to reading, but not as much as a deep-seated learning and not, I believe, as satisfying, would be listening to audio books and podcasts and watching substantive videos.  In reading, you have time to ponder, contemplate, linger over and ultimately process the content.  One’s listening to audio or watching videos constitutes a more passive brain activity than the act of reading.  It is, of course, better than no learning activity.

The most cerebral people I know voraciously read books and periodicals.  They are well versed on many topics and subjects and are able to connect them, contrast them, 12386-an-stack-of-old-books-isolated-on-a-white-background-pvcompare them, analogize them, extrapolate from them and meaningfully unpack them.

The act of reading or listening to books is the intention and commitment to learn new things and to be in a continuously learning mode –   kind of like a continuing liberal arts education.  Especially now, the  intention-and-commitment-to-learn mode has become imperative given that the rate of expansion of knowledge and innovation seems to double whether in hours, weeks, months or years depending on the field.

My base technology knowledge as a 15-year old was rather primitive and quaint compared to my 15-year-old son who knows how to put together a computer from off-the-shelf components and to program a robot.  He reads articles and blogs on the internet and watches YouTube videos when he wants to learn how to do something.  That is useful learning.  However, he and my teenage daughter and most other teenagers I know do not do enough reading of books, let alone wide and deep reading of books.  I fear their writing and critical thinking skills and broad base knowledge could suffer.  My base general knowledge as a teenager was far greater than theirs is.  I attribute this gap to the fact that I had read many more books by their ages.13728-a-smart-girl-with-glasses-holding-a-book-pv

By reading, you learn how to write better by seeing word usage, different vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and syntax and hearing in the mind’s ear the writer’s voice.   As I alluded earlier about being well versed, by reading you also know more about different topics to inform your professional or social conversations with others.  It can make your conversations more interesting.  Moreover, by reading you bring to bear more knowledge to understand and solve problems and ask the right questions in your work whether it be professional or volunteer work.  When you face industry disruption, must be a change agent, or need to reinvent your business or yourself, your store of knowledge from reading will come in handy!

For those for whom reading does not come readily because of lack of habit or interest, or busyness, the trick is to approach it like starting any new program (like physical exercise or learning a new language): begin lightly with 15 minutes a day and incrementally work your way up to a robust hour.  You may just remember or find what you have been missing all these years: the joys of reading.  You will certainly grow smarter.  Oh, and by the way, if you have trouble falling  asleep at night, start reading a book; it is quicker and healthier than a sleeping pill.

 

Copyright © 2017 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.