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Preparing for the future

November 12th, 2009

During these hard economic times, finding a job or internship has never been more difficult.

However, there are things everyone can do to stand out from the competition.

A new concept that is becoming increasingly popular is the idea of personal branding. In the same way that companies try to market and sell their brands, people should begin to do the same thing for themselves. It acts as another channel to increase the chances of getting hired.

Personal branding means that people need to promote the values, skills and expertise that they possess.

Professor David James, of the Henley School of Business in England, gave tips to CNN on how to go about creating a personal brand.

The first step is to figure out what your strengths are, so that you can establish a clear message about who you are and what you have to offer.

Next, figure out your goals and what you want to achieve, including the job you would like to have and how you want others to perceive you.

Finally, think about what audience you are trying to target with your message and how you can reach them.

Social networking sites have made this extremely easy, because people can promote themselves through their own personal blogs or on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. These sites can all help people to make key professional contacts.

James said, “If you work hard enough to make yourself good at what you do, then you have to tell people about it. Take command of the situation, know what you’re good at and shout it from the rafters.”

Personal branding can lead to landing interviews, but the key to a successful interview is doing research.

This means researching the company, the person that will be conducting the interview and most importantly, understanding what the employer is looking for in an applicant.

“If the candidate doesn’t know what the employer is looking for, [he or she] can’t properly communicate why they are the most qualified candidate for the position,” said Steven Rothberg, founder of CollegeRecruiter.com.

Barb Koeth of the John Carroll University Career Center said, “Good communication skills, proper business attire and proper follow-up also contribute to a candidate’s success in the interview process.”

In a study done by careerbuilder.com, they discovered the most common reasons employers hire employees. Beyond the basic job qualifications, perspective employers are looking for candidates with the ability to work well with others, to multi-task, to take initiative, and those with a strong online presence and creative thinking skills.

To show off these skills in an interview, one should be prepared with stories of how they have used them in previous work experiences.

For instance, junior Ashley Bauer, in an interview for a summer internship position,  let her future employer know about her organization, time-management skills and ability to work well with others.

She described how she was responsible for filling the casted audience sections that were shown on national television during the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Bauer said, “I let them know how I worked together with multiple people to make sure the event ran smoothly and that each seat was filled.”

Lastly, be prepared for challenges on an interview, such as having to answer negative questions about yourself.

Rosalyn Platt, adviser for the JCU Career Center, said that when asked about negative traits, “Be honest about your weaknesses, but try to turn it around to something positive or something that you are actively working on improving.”

Therefore, a strong knowledge of how to market oneself coupled with extensive research about the job, company and culture, makes it much easier for people to stand out from the competition and land a great job.