Many years ago, back in the 1980s, to be exact, supermarkets experimented with a new marketing strategy featuring generic products. Grocery stores dedicated several aisles to generic products. These items, priced at a discount to comparable branded products, were displayed with stark black lettering listing the product type. The only value proposition was the low price. You could buy Tide laundry detergent or just plain old generic laundry detergent at a much lower price. Same for cereal, soup, and even beer.
Flash forward to 2020. Generic beer is out, and craft beer is exploding in microbreweries and the grocery aisle. Whenever I visit my local Wegman’s, my second favorite stop, after the donut display, is the craft beer aisle. I wish I was a craft beer expert and could explain the subtler differences between an IPA or a lager. But I am not. My initial purchase decisions are heavily influenced by the beer names and label designs. Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, and All Day IPA. If it looks good and sounds good, into my cart they go. I will check them out to learn more (or taste more). If the taste lives up to the packaging, I will be back for more.
Now, what can craft beer teach us about our job search? Imagine you are an HR recruiter looking at hundreds of resumes and LinkedIn profiles every day searching for a Plant Manager. Which resume or LinkedIn profile is more likely to get your attention? One with generic branding that says “Plant Manager” in everyday black and white or one with personal branding that says “Global Operations Plant Manager | Change Management Leader | EHS & Labor Relations Expert” and tells a compelling story? A powerful personal brand can get you into the shopping cart. From there, your interview skills and the stories you tell will determine if the buyer wants to make a repeat purchase.
Here are six areas in your job search where you can move from a generic personal brand to a more inviting “craft beer” like brand. In no particular order, more stream of consciousness:
Resume Headline: I like to see a single line branding headline at the top of the resume (right below the contact information) and above the professional summary paragraph. Use the "Power of 3" approach: [Job Title 1 | Job Title 2 | Value Proposition Competitive Advantage]. Job titles should be keyword optimized to match the titles of positions you are targeting. Check out an additional perspective about writing a strong resume headline here.
LinkedIn Profile Headline: Essentially, the same recommendation as your resume headline with one enhancement. LinkedIn allows you to have 300 characters (inc spaces) in your headline. That works out to about two full lines in your headline. Keep your resume headline to one line (depending on font and margin size that will be about 100-150 characters on average). So with the LinkedIn headline, you can be even more descriptive on the third element (your value proposition). And please, leave the “Seeking Opportunity” at home and out of your headline. No recruiter is searching LinkedIn for the job title “Seeking Opportunity” in their search routine. Learn the steps to customize your headline on LinkedIn here.
LinkedIn Background Photo: By default, LinkedIn sets the background photo for your profile to a generic blue rectangle. The background photo (the image directly behind your headshot) is kind of like a billboard along the highway. Are you going to pull off at the next exit on the road to go to the diner because you viewed that exciting blank blue billboard out your car window? Don’t waste the space! Add a personalized background photo to your LinkedIn profile. Select an image that supports your value proposition and relates to your job search target and industry. There are powerful tools such as PowerPoint and Canva, that you can utilize to enhance the background photo with text and quotes. Learn how to make the change to your background photo here.
Professional Experience Section (Resume and LinkedIn Profile): Take a look at the experience section(s) of both your resume and LinkedIn profile. If the bullet points read like a job description, filled with duties and responsibility descriptions, then you are about as exciting as a can of generic beer. I want my beer label to tell me how that liquid is going to taste and make me feel. “Chocolate Cupcake Stout” is a lot more exciting and tasty than “Beer” in a black and white can. The same goes for how you describe your experience. If you want to be dull and boring like the mass of humanity, write your experience bullets like a job description. If you're going to stand out from the competition, tell me what you have accomplished with results and quantitative metrics. Make me want to learn more about what you can do for our organization. Read more about the formula a Google HR executive recommends for writing excellent experience bullet points for your resume and LinkedIn profile here.
Professional Summary (Resume): Think of this content section as the billboard advertisement for your resume. Your elevator pitch is the foundation for this content and should align in message and tone with your professional summary. This section below the headline will summarize in 3-4 sentences maximum precisely what your value proposition will be for the targeted position and employer. No fluff here. Just a clear message about why you are uniquely qualified for your target position and what value you will bring to a potential employer. View additional examples on writing a compelling professional summary for your resume here.
About Section (LinkedIn Profile): The About section of your LinkedIn profile is an excellent opportunity to put your brand and professional summary on full display. A one-paragraph professional summary on your resume is about 500 characters. LinkedIn allows you up to 2000 characters (inc spaces) for your About section. That’s a lot of space to create an impressive craft beer label! This blank page in your profile might seem intimidating, but you don’t have to start from scratch. Your baseline elevator pitch serves as the foundation for the first draft. Use first-person language when writing your professional summary. The About section is your opportunity to expand on your value proposition and highlight your competitive advantage. Be sure that the About section, just like your elevator pitch, includes the keywords and skills captured from your primary job and industry research. Forbes Magazine has two excellent articles on best practices for writing a LinkedIn summary and examples of some outstanding individual summaries.
These six examples above are just a drop in the bucket among the myriad ways that you can add more punch to your branding and your job search. Consider them just a start to developing a much more attractive label for your value proposition. The better the label, the more likely you will get picked off the shelf, secure the interview, and land your next job.
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Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.