While personal branding is important, people often over index way too much time editing their resume and cover letter (usually because they’re not sure how else to spend their time wisely in job search) - but we can help.
Here are the ways you can create strong, tailored materials that do not require much editing, so that during your job search you can focus your time and energy to break into your target organizations by networking and meeting people. If you can introduce yourself, they will then meet you and understand you as a person, and as a strong potential candidate to join their team. Without that human element, you’re leaving it up to fate of the online job boards which we all know is not the most reliable tool, unfortunately.
How do I not get in my own way when it comes to editing and strengthening my personal branding materials? How should I go about effectively editing my job search materials?
- Ensure your career path and direction is fully clear before beginning either your branding materials and/or your job search. Using keywords in line with your target direction is critical for all personal branding materials, so having that direction clear in your mind first is also critical.
- When you’re ready to edit your materials, rip the bandaid off and step off the curb. Recognize that any editing is better than none (so long as you’re not editing endlessly). If you never take the first step, you’ll never finish. Don’t see it as this huge mountain, rather, take it one step at a time. Break it down into smaller substeps (template → first draft → get it edited → finalize it). If you’re procrastinating, see the below next steps to help make it easier to get started.
- Recognize that it is not worth your time to delay your job search by delaying finalizing these materials. While they are important, there is much more to do so you get your foot in the door to your target organizations and to achieve your career goals. Knowing this, and remembering why job search is important to you, will help you drive these materials to the finish line.
- Get help. I’d suggest getting your materials strong by getting help from a mentor, peer, or career coach. If you have help from someone else, you won’t be spinning your wheels endlessly editing without being sure if it’s good enough. These types of materials may never feel perfect or done, but having another set of eyes on it will help you feel more certain of when it is strong and ready to move on to other more important activities.
- Clean up your materials before your job search begins. I recommend taking 2-4 weeks to get these materials done before your job search starts so that when they’re done, you can refocus your time and energy on what matters: networking.
- Once the materials are in a strong state, check back in to refresh your materials once per month so that you can reincorporate new keywords, remove old keywords that are not as relevant, and adjust any phrasing that keeps your materials best aligned with your target career direction.
- You’ll revisit personal branding on a weekly basis as part of your job search to briefly customize materials for job applications and to create thought leadership (see below), but once the bulk of the materials are edited, you won’t need to spend more than 10-30 minutes tailoring materials to each job application. Don’t forget, networking is the key to a successful job search (more than online job applications are), so don’t drown in your materials!
What are the key personal branding materials I need to pay attention to?
- Professional Summary - People often feel unclear whether an “objective” or “summary” is helpful to use on a resume. I’d think about it as your LinkedIn’s “about” section, and if you get that section strong enough anyway, you may as well reuse it on your resume. This summary can be very powerful if you do it well so you can own your story rather than other people judging your background and trying to interpret who you are professionally. You just want to ensure you’re writing in a way that is specific and telling; avoid using fluffy, common, generic words or phrases. Hint: our three-sentence framework describes your background, strengths, and direction.
- Resume - This is an obvious requirement to have ready for job applications and networking purposes. I’d keep it to 1 page unless you have 10+ more years of experience, in which case you can do 2 pages max. You only need to make it design-oriented in nature if that applies to your target role or industry.
- LinkedIn - This is another obvious place for you to focus. If you optimize your profile and it is in line with your target direction, it can be a great tool with several automatic capabilities to help people find you for the right opportunities, so that you may even start to receive inbound leads for open, relevant roles.
- Cover Letter - While this is debatable if it's worth having, I feel that it's easy enough (with the right help) to get a strong template ready quickly that you may as well get it done.
- Video Pitch - This is a great way to ensure people can meet you as a person rather than solely rely on your on-paper materials. You can create a 1-minute video, upload it to YouTube, and attach it to your resume, LinkedIn, networking emails, and more. You can use the same formula for your professional summary so you can briefly introduce yourself, become a face to the name, and easily own your story so people are compelled and interested to meet you and hear more about what value you can offer them. You can make it “unlisted” if you want so only people you want to see it will see it.
- Website or Portfolio - Only spend time working on this if it’s applicable to your target role or career direction.
If you’re seeking unique templates, material generators, best practice guidance, and full editing on all of the above materials, we can help! We can hop on a free call to chat about our approach, and/or you can sign up for a coaching plan so we can work on these together.
How much time should I spend editing my resume, cover letter, linkedin, professional summary?
- First, decide if you can get help from a mentor, peer, or coach, so that you can a) have templates or processes to create these materials easily and b) have someone to edit and finalize the documents with you. If you’re doing this on your own, we’ll still make the below applicable, but try to leverage free or low cost resources to make your life easier.
- Professional Summary - I have a concise, 3-sentence framework here, but other coaches may have other formulas or formats. Once you find the help or template you want to run with, I’d spend no more than 30 minutes-1 hour to submit your best draft and get feedback from a coach, mentor, peer, or someone else so you can get a fresh pair of eyes to strengthen and finalize it.
- Resume - Spend 1-3 hours applying best practice guidance (both in terms of formatting and strengthening the content) to get it into a place where it's as strong as you can get it for a first draft. You don’t want to overspend time here before you get someone to edit, otherwise it’ll take way too long unnecessarily. Again, it may never feel ready or done, but remember it's just a first draft, and getting editing help will ensure you can get it to the finish line. Of course, consider who you ask help from to ensure you get the right help. Once you have that person’s eyes on it, you can review their edits, comments, suggestions, and go back and forth until it's perfect.
- LinkedIn - With guidance or a checklist of the right best practices, you can easily spend 1 hour updating your profile before you can get someone to review and finalize it with you. Having a coach or someone to review your overall profile with you is the easiest and quickest way to know how to optimize your LinkedIn profile and settings.
- Cover Letter - With a template and/or an effective cover letter generator, you could spend 1 hour coming up with a strong first draft, before someone reviews, edits, and finalizes this with you. You can take 10-30 minutes to customize the letter to any job application moving forward.
- Video Pitch - If you’re not super comfortable with being on video, remember to leverage your already drafted professional summary to help prepare and practice what you want to say. Take 1-2 hours to record this and no more before sending to someone else for some opinions or feedback.
Do you suggest having multiple versions of the resume or cover letter?
- Resume: I strongly suggest having one resume version. You are ONE person, with one story. Having a varied background can make you more unique as to what new perspectives you can add to your next direction. Clarifying which role and industry is the best next step for you is a critical first step so that your materials are clearly telling the story you want. In order to tell the right story, you have to figure out the right story, via career exploration. Once you have that direction in mind, you can optimize your resume to all the keywords you’d need, plus figuring out anything else you need to do to land that role (networking, learning, researching, upskilling). You won’t be narrowing yourself in, instead, you’ll be creating a more efficient and effective job search and career path.
- Cover Letter: I suggest having one letter per type of role so that you can tailor the bulk of the letter about your fit and capabilities (though if you’re applying to more than roles, I strongly suggest you go back to career exploration to narrow in your focus).
How do I build a personal brand?
Beyond just your materials or online profiles, you want to stay active to share thought leadership. This can also benefit you by getting your name out there to potential hiring managers or recruiters. Here are some ideas you can consider:
- Could you write and share some short blog articles about key areas of your expertise? Consider your knowledge of your role/function as well as your industry.
- Could you create and share some videos about key areas of your expertise? Consider your knowledge of your role/function as well as your industry.
- Could you share or post an article and add some thoughts you have about it? Consider your knowledge of your role/function as well as your industry.
- Could you comment on a conversation or thread to add your thoughts? Consider your knowledge of your role/function as well as your industry.
- Where to post? When you share these pieces of thought leadership out to the world, consider where your hiring managers/recruiters are looking depending on your field. LinkedIn is obviously a popular place for professional networking, but you could consider Twitter, or other social media sites that are a strong fit for your target connections or career direction.