with Brig Berthold, Robyn Knox, and Debra Ham
BRIG: Welcome back to Section 3 of Cracking the Code; where we are going to talk about Marketing Yourself, and we are here with Debra Ham and Robyn Knox. And I will give them a few seconds to introduce themselves:
ROBYN: Hi, I am Robyn Knox, I am president and founder of The HR Business Connect. I have been in the HR profession for about 25 years. Most of my career has been spent in the manufacturing industry. I am a Senior Certified HR Professional, and I have been heavily involved in the Society of Human Resource Management in several different volunteer roles. In the local SHRM chapters as well as the SHRM state council for South Carolina.
DEBRA: And I am Debra Ham, I am currently the director of Human Resources for the County of Greenville. Prior to this role I spent over 30 years in manufacturing, in various levels of increasing responsibility in the human resources arena. I hold certifications in the Global Human Resources Senior Professional in Human Resources and the SHRM SCP.
DEBRA: Glad to be with you.
BRIG: Thank you, we’re glad that both of you are here. One question before we talk about marketing ourselves: I think a lot of the members of the military transitioning into the civilian workplace are wondering whether HR people have any military understanding at all. Does our resume make sense to you? Do our skills translate at all?
ROBYN: In some cases, HR professionals may understand but in other cases, oh no, we are a long way away from understanding the terminology, so I would say don’t risk it. I would take responsibility for ensuring if you were in that job search mode that you want to make sure you are taking the responsibility to ensure that you are translating as much as possible your skills your abilities your knowledge, everything you have done in the military and putting that in civilian terms. As much as you possibly can. Sometimes that may require you to talk to somebody who has been there, who’s done that, who’s had experience doing that or maybe even talk to a career coach, someone who works with Veterans, who could assist you in doing that: translating your skills and experience.
BRIG: A lot of members of the military don’t like to brag about themselves but in the background we are also very proud of the service we have conducted and given, and Debra what would you say to somebody who is really struggling with not bragging about themselves while being proud of it?
DEBRA: You should be very proud of your accomplishments in the military. I know we all are, and we appreciate your service. So, don’t be shy when it comes to your job search. You are the sole marketer of yourself. What you say goes. That will be the time to shine and make sure you put your best foot forward. Make sure you tell about all of your strengths and make yourself the best person that they would choose for the opportunity.
BRIG: We are talking about marketing yourself on paper, right? This is long before we ever sit down with a person. And that begins with a resume. What makes a bad resume? Debra, you were excited to answer this question.
DEBRA: You have to proofread your resume. Some of the things that would be unnerving to me would be poor grammar, poor spelling, improper use of terms. Applying for the electronic tech position but you accidentally put the title for the football team manager on that resume and you sent the wrong resume to the company. You just have to pay attention to every little detail. Your “Its” versus “It’s” – there is a difference, you’re “There,”” Their,” and “They’re.” all of those things make a difference, and they catch someone’s attention.
ROBYN: And I would add to that it needs to be easy to read. Meaning a lot of white space, l, don’t make it so tiny, larger font, so that those who are in their 50’s doesn’t have a difficult time reading it if they don’t have their reading glasses handy. The other thing to keep in mind is that recruiters see so many resumes, they are going to spend up to 7 seconds making a decision whether your paper meets the basic qualifications for the job. 7 seconds they are going to glance at that resume. And within 7 seconds it’s not obvious that you are meeting those basic qualifications then they are going to move on to that next resume. That’s not a lot of time; 7 seconds. Those things such as your experience, your skills, the education required need to be highlighted, need to be bold, need to be legible.
DEBRA: Yes, and the resume is not a good place to write an essay. It should be bullet points making simple statements, highlight accomplishments, so results oriented. Led 35,000 troops through the “something.” Something to stand out, not just: “Led troops.” But also not a whole paragraph about you assembled 50 people together and you did things over there and… you would not believe what some people send in on a resume and wonder why they didn’t get the job.
BRIG: Something like a bullet point: Maintains 2 million dollars’ worth of equipment over a 12-month deployment in a combat environment? That would be a decent bullet point.
DEBRA: Planned, organized, and led however many in combat missions or were responsible for millions of dollars of equipment, operated equipment, maintained equipment, repaired equipment.
ROBYN: But you also need to make it relevant to the position you are applying for. You don’t want to go and put a whole lot of those details in a resume if it’s not applicable for the position.
DEBRA: Make the resume applicable for the position, absolutely.
BRIG: So if you wanted to get a job as a journalist you wouldn’t say that you maintained 2 million dollars’ worth of equipment.
ROBYN: Another concern people have these days is being overqualified for positions, so you need to be careful there as well.
BRIG: So maybe it is in our best interest as a transitioning Veteran is to leave some things off of your resume. You may be really proud of it but it doesn’t translate and it isn’t applicable.
BRIG: Do you have any cover letter pet peeves?
DEBRA: The same. Grammar, spelling, making sure the letter is appropriate for the job you are applying for. Again, not a long letter but something simple. I have seen now that a couple people are getting away from writing cover letters. I do not have a personal preference but a lot of people doing the hiring still like to see them. It can’t hurt unless it is not relevant to the job. Again, it’s got to be relevant, it is an introductory way to tell that company what you’re interested in pursuing. Again, be specific and be relevant, make you communication clear and concise.
BRIG: Sticking to the distanced relationship building, what about social media? How we look online. What tips do you have about social media and how we present ourselves online? Or what would be a terrible idea?
ROBYN: Well, you definitely want to come across as being professional. I heard one time that your friends, your connections online are your references. I personally don’t go online onto Facebook and look at what applicants are posting, but some companies may. I feel like it is a little bit invasive, so I have never done that but, again, other organizations may. Some states have laws against that, particularly about handing over passwords, I can’t imagine a company asking for that anyway. But LinkedIn, certainly I have seen people get very vocal on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not a tool for people to express their strong opinions. Be careful there. LinkedIn should be a tool where you’re being very professional. It is a professional networking platform. So, do not go out there and express political views that you don’t know might distance half the country. Or offend half the country. I would be cautious about that if you are out there looking for employment. That will only invite a lot of naysayers. I would encourage others too on your social media platforms, like LinkedIn, to give you recommendations. So, if you have other people you have worked with who have been in leadership roles, who have worked closely with you, ask them to give you a recommendation via LinkedIn. I think that carries a lot of weight. I have gone on LinkedIn, particularly when hiring someone in a leadership role. That can sway me if I am having to make a decision between 2 or 3 candidates, if I see some strong recommendations out there.
DEBRA: Another thing about LinkedIn: developing a complete profile but having a professional looking picture. It is not the same as your Facebook, which is more casual, a lot of people are trying to make it more casual, but most people are keeping it professional. But you will see some selfies, but I was advised early on, when I was doing my first job search after 30 plus years, to have a professional picture, even if it was taken in my backyard, dress nicely, be well groomed, make sure your beard is trimmed if you have a beard. Make yourself look professional. Even though you may be family oriented, LinkedIn, for the professional view, is not the time to have your family photo as a part of it. I’ve seen that as well.
BRIG: I have seen that as well. Let’s move away from marketing yourself at a distance and move into the in-person marketing of yourself. When you get to a networking event you should have a 30 second elevator pitch. We get told that all the time, a lot of people do not know what that is or what that means. What advice would you give, maybe one or two sentences on how to craft your 30 second elevator pitch? Debra, what do you think?
DEBRA: When you want someone… what is the most important thing you want someone to know about you? If your elevator pitch is for a job, what is the most important thing you want them to know about you? And craft a few sentences to get that message to that person.
BRIG: Robin what would you say to that?
ROBYN: Yeah, and be prepared for a follow up to that, because chances are the person is going to ask you a question or make a statement like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Tell me more.” So having follow up to that, so even though it’s only 30 seconds you need to be prepared with another 30 seconds to continue that conversation. And if you can, tell them not just about you, tell them something that would make them be interested in how you could help them. So, it’s not just about you, but how you could be a beneficial employee for them. And again, being in the military, oh my goodness, wow, the kind of experience that you have had is incredible. I can’t imagine the stress, the pressure, the amount of training even that you have been exposed to, that folks in my world have probably not even had a tenth of the level of pressure and stress that you have been exposed to. What you can contribute to an organization is phenomenal. And you just need to be able to articulate that.
BRIG: And in the military that gets normalized, because we are all with a bunch of people who have the same experiences and who have done the same things. So, it’s hard for us to market ourselves in person. We don’t know what buzz-words will trigger a connection, we don’t understand what is cool or what is appealing in the civilian world quite as easily, and in the military we wear it on our chest. I mean literally, at a glance, you know a lot about a person very quickly. Are there some ways, like business cards, is it valuable to bring business cards to networking events? When maybe you are not employed but are looking for a job?
ROBYN: Well, you know it may not be a bad idea to have one just in case someone asks for a business card. I’ve got mixed feelings on that. I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to pass out business cards unless someone asks for a business card. I would though, if I were seeking employment or looking for a job, I wouldn’t regret or think twice about asking others for business cards, because I think that puts me in the position to say, “I’m interested in you.” I don’t want to add to your clutter – everyone is trying to go paperless. I’m not going to give you something that you have to make a decision on whether you’re going to just throw it away. I’m going to ask for yours. That puts me in the responsibility to get in touch with you and then I can follow up with you on LinkedIn and sending you a connection request. And oh, by the way going back to LinkedIn, when you send a connection request, add a message to it… don’t just click connect. Please don’t click connect without putting a message. Put the message and say, “Really enjoyed meeting you at such and such event. I hope that we can connect on LinkedIn, I would love to learn more about your company in the future…” or whatever. But again, that’s my take on business cards. Its not a bad idea to have them just in case someone says, “Do you have card?” but I wouldn’t go around passing out business cards.
DEBRA: I like that.
BRIG: You agree with that?
DEBRA: I do.
BRIG: What are some do’s and don’ts to remember when you’re at a networking event? Are there just a couple that bother you every single time, or that impress you every single time?
DEBRA: When you are talking to someone, make eye contact. That’s probably not an issue for Veterans. I don’t know, just in case. When you are having a conversation with someone, it’s common courtesy, but it shows that you’re interested in what they are saying, and that you have a message to say. But if you are looking down at the floor, or looking around, that doesn’t give a good vibe to the person you are trying to communicate with. And to veer away from that for a second, if you are at a social event, hold it to 1 or 2 drinks. Constantly going back to the bar for a refill, maybe you can handle it, but it just doesn’t give a good message or send a good presentation about yourself.
BRIG: It gets noticed.
DEBRA: It does.
BRIG: Do you have anything that impresses you every single time?
ROBYN: You know, I think those individuals who are making an attempt to be approachable and inclusive of others always impresses me. And by that, I mean if two people are having a conversation and they see someone walking by and hovering, looking for someone to talk to, and they with open arms invite them over. I love seeing that approachability. Maybe that’s the HR in me you know, I don’t know. That stands out as somebody that I want to get to know.
BRIG: That’s terrific. Well, we are going to thank our guests for being here. Thank you both so much for your expertise. We want to remind everyone watching this to fill out your resume template, the LinkedIn guide, your network contact grid, and your elevator pitch worksheet before you move on.