Monday, March 28, 2011

Work: How to Be Your Own Best Publicist and Get the Job You Want

"Today, 80 percent of senior jobs are acquired through personal relationships and, as a 40licious woman, you likely have a large group of friends and family that you can tap to unearth professional opportunities. Your network is your net worth, so start reaching out to people even before you want or need something." - Jessica Kleiman and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper, "Be Your Own Best Publicist"

Today we have a Q & A with co-authors and veteran publicists Jessica Kleiman and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper, the authors of "Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired, and Rewarded at Work." Whether you're looking for a job or just want to do better in the one you have, it's a book well worth the quick read.

1. Some women in their 40s are just now getting serious about working now that their kids are old enough. What personal PR advice do you have for someone who may not have as stellar a resume as her peers?

First, do your research. What kind of job are you looking for and what are the skills that you need to get your foot in the door? Find profiles for people in positions that you’re interested in and see how they talk about their experience. What in your background parallels theirs? If you need to fill the gap, consider taking an internship or even signing up for classes at a local college. It’s about playing up your strengths and highlighting what you have accomplished. If you don’t have ton of office or professional experience, take a look at skills you may have cultivated in college, in your volunteer work or even in your day-to-day life.

2. By the time we are 40licious, many of us may have more experience than our bosses. How do we maintain our dignity when we know the manager is way off base?

Keep it in perspective. There’s clearly a reason why he or she is in that position of power. Think of it as an opportunity to learn to manage up. Listen to direction and feedback; you may need to defer to the manager if he or she isn’t open to dialogue. Share your opinions but don’t be too pushy; gauge if the manager is open to feedback and give it in a constructive way that invites a two-way conversation. Resist the urge to complain with co-workers or air your dirty laundry on social media sites. Instead, do the best job you can in whatever you do and document your successes as you go along. Ultimately, you’re responsible for being your own best publicist in the workplace. Do that by being supportive of your boss and teammates, adding value, and making sure you stay focused on your strengths.

3. Even though the economy is improving, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of folks vying for the same job. How can a 40licious woman stand out among people who may have lower salary requirements -- or people who have 15 years' more experience?

There’s never been a more important time to stand out in a good way. Do that by doing your research before walking into an interview or meeting and being clear about the unique strengths and perspective you bring to the table. Today, 80 percent of senior jobs are acquired through personal relationships and, as a 40licious woman, you likely have a large group of friends and family that you can tap to unearth professional opportunities. Your network is your net worth, so start reaching out to people even before you want or need something. And, finally – in this day and age where the art of the thank you card has gone out the window, a tried and true way to stand out is to send a hand-written note after any meeting or interview. In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we share a story about a woman who takes it one step further, using vintage Wonder Woman cards to follow up on meetings. Not only do these stand out from an aesthetic standpoint, but they also demonstrate her humor and send the subliminal message that she herself is a “wonder woman.” Consider the small touches that could speak volumes about who you are and what you want to do.

4. Let's talk for a minute about appearance. Are there any rules that 40licious women need to keep in mind while dressing for a job. We want to be taken seriously, but don't make us frumpy!

As you see in movies from “My Fair Lady” to “Mean Girls,” how one looks is as much of a calling card as the one in your wallet. In Be Your Own Best Publicist, Stylist Sarah Shirley says, “A good haircut and shoes are the bookends to any outfit. Everything else you can improvise.” First and foremost, you want to dress for the occasion. We like to say: Don’t wear a ball gown to a ballgame. When in doubt, select classic pieces to which you can add your own signature touches – like a cool pair of classes or a distinctive vintage broach. Make sure your clothing is tailored appropriately and that you feel comfortable in it. We share more tips from other top stylists in the book.

5. I loved the anecdotes in the book about people who started blogs or targeted Google searches toward to specific employers. What other advice can you share for your online presence? And is it a bad thing if a woman in her 40s has zero online presence?

Social media can be a great tool in promoting oneself and making connections that will help you in your career. If you’re seeking a new job, you really should try to cultivate a social media savvyness. Start by creating a Facebook and Twitter presence and putting your resume on LinkedIn. But know that while it’s important to have a strong digital presence, it can also be a double-edged sword since everything you put online becomes part of your public record. According to a poll by social media site, over 45 percent of employers now proactively screen social media profiles. The lesson? Be careful what you post: What you put into the digital ether creates your online resume—often the first impression that people have of you. For example, think of your status as an expensive billboard in Times Square. Don’t just throw any old thing up there. Even something as innocuous as vacation photos can have ramifications—what if you called in sick the day the image was time-stamped for and your boss happens to catch your mistake? Instead, consider each and every piece of information you put out there. Knowledge is power, and you want to be the one holding the cards.

6. Anything else you'd like to tell us about Be Your Own Best Publicist?

Most everyday people can’t afford to hire their own publicist to help them build a personal platform or image that makes an impact. The goal of this book is to teach people how to apply, to their own careers, the practices and skills PR professionals have used during the past century to influence public opin­ion. In today’s world, where jobs are at a premium, image is paramount and your digital footprint is set in cement, it is even more crucial to know how to promote yourself to stand out in a positive way in the workplace, whether you’re looking to get hired, move up in the ranks at your current job or hoping to land that new client.

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