Creating a professional brand

Your “brand” exists whether you manage it or not. As the cumulative footprint of all of your web activity, your reputation, and your professional history, your professional brand will live on into perpetuity, even if you do nothing to take control.

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That means that you must manage it. Fail to do so, and your brand will manage itself! So, how do you want to be presented to the professional world?

First, Google yourself

Yes, it’s a bit uncomfortable. But in order to manage your professional image, you need to have a good overall picture of that image now. Google yourself, and check out the image, web, and social media results. What results pop up on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or LinkedIn? Are there details about your personal life that are better left to the imagination? Log in to each of those accounts and manage the results by hiding specific matters from the public. When in doubt, your default setting should be “private.”

Things to avoid: selfies and group photos at social outings that are alcohol-heavy, goofy insider-jokes, and vacation photos. A public photo or two of you with the family dog are fine – they humanize you and can show potential professional contacts that you’re a genuinely happy person! Just limit and monitor that exposure.

Develop continuity

If you can, try to utilize the same or similar professional photos across various website and social media accounts. Make sure that outsiders associate one or two images with your professional persona. It’ll make you memorable and will keep your brand recognizable. Make sure that you also use your name in connection with those images. During a Google search, you want that information to be readily available. If you can, include your name in identifiable URLs on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Consider a logo

A logo – even a simple monogram – is customizable and adds recognition to your name. The human brain is much more inclined to remember symbols, so add a symbol to your brand and consider yourself memorable! Not a graphic designer? That’s okay. Plenty of services and tools are available online to help you out.

Build the brand

If you don’t have a profile on LinkedIn, it’s time. The site is free, easy to use, and a go-to option for employers and clients alike who are interested in digging a little deeper into your professional credentials.

Next, develop a few articles or blog posts to help demonstrate your expertise. Publishing those articles is as simple as clicking “share” on your LinkedIn profile, so there’s no need to develop a full blog or connect with a larger website presence.

Now it’s time to network. Start by selecting a few folks with web presence in your chosen field, and link up with them on social media platforms. These are the people who can help you to build your web network, so talk to them about your goals and your professional skillset. “Like” the things they share, and ask them to “endorse” you for specific skills. If they’re members of professional groups, join those groups. Remember –these people have similar goals, so your efforts won’t be perceived negatively.

Update

Building a brand is a long-term project, so your work is never done! Make a point of checking in to investigate your web presence and make sure that you’re balancing deliberately published material with editing those published elements (on Facebook and otherwise) that have the potential to hurt you. Keep tabs on both and you’re well on your way to building a successful brand!

Advantages of having a virtual intern [Employers]

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Telecommuting is a normal employment practice for much of the working world – here are the reasons it can benefit both you and your interns:

Increase your applicant pool

Internships aren’t just restricted by location when they work virtually. You’re limited to students with transportation and flexible scheduling. Broaden your search for interesting, qualified students and you may be impressed! Offering an open-ended schedule means students can work at night, between classes, or even on weekends. Just make sure you offer enough hours to draw candidates who need to fulfill academic requirements.

Save space and resources

Virtual interns don’t require desks, computers, or building access. They’ll also need a pretty tight web-based training schedule, which means less time during your work day devoted to answering questions. It’s not that you don’t want to help – it’s that help is time, and time is, after all, money.

Web-based communication

For most modern college students, video conferencing, email, and instant messaging are comfortable and familiar methods of communication. If anything, you’re going to be the one who needs to adjust! It’s true that in-person communication is an important part of learning professionalism, and that teaching professionalism is your role if you’re going to supervise interns. But modern offices use electronic communication, and young people use it almost exclusively. If most of your conversations with your new intern involve typing and hitting “send,” they are still conversations!

If you’re on the fence, consider how many of your daily tasks – including the tasks you would likely allocate to an intern – are completed via computer, with no additional resources necessary?

Telecommuting is the future of much employment. Hire a virtual intern and get in sync with the way the world does business – even internships! Post your internship opportunity on Bridge.jobs and see how many more applicants you get when you mention “virtual intern.”

4 Internal struggles leaders must overcome [Employers]

It’s tricky at the top. There are some problems that come with every leadership position – the predictable stuff: unmotivated team members, navigating organizational change, being willing to make tough decisions. This is the stuff you know is coming.

What about the other struggles? What about the internal problems that every leader will inevitably face, but few talk about?

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Isolation

Your position will necessarily require that you maintain some level of distance from on-the-ground activities. That distance is necessary because it allows you to maintain a bird’s-eye view and to consider the big picture, leaving the smaller stuff to lower-level management.

Executive isolation can become debilitating, which will inevitably compromise your ability to effectively lead. If your day is exclusively comprised of time in the corner office and meetings with executives, you’re missing out on what’s really happening on the ground, and your leadership will quickly become ineffective.

Make interactions with your employees a priority. This doesn’t mean you need to regularly socialize with staff, but seeing your face and feeling your presence are important motivators for employees. Ask questions about their jobs. Talk about plans and strategies. Stay connected with the whole team, not just the top tier.

Cynicism

People in positions of power tend to become naturally suspicious and cynical. It’s important to be mindful of this type of progression so that it doesn’t interfere with your ability to build authentic relationships.

  • Remember that some acts of generosity and kindness are motivated for all the right reasons. Not everyone who shows an interest in building a relationship with you is doing it for selfish reasons!
  • Your suspicions can seriously damage your professional relationships. You want to be known as a person who is accessible and genuine, not cynical and cold. Take chances, build relationships.

Discouraging Dissent

If you’re in charge, you’re likely to encounter few people who are willing to tell you that you’re wrong. Eventually, attaining power will create a vacuum – your dissenters will be few and far between, and when you do encounter a person who disagrees with you, you’re likely to react negatively!

Surrounding yourself with cheerleaders can feel great in the short term, but trapping yourself in a circle of “yes men” will eventually hurt both you and your organization. A real team has disagreements, and an organization needs discussion – even heated discussion, on occasion – to grow.

Collaborating with Confidence

“Teamwork” is a principle drilled into most leaders from grade school on. In practice, it isn’t employed nearly as often as it is discussed!

Collaboration can feel, to people in power, like compromise. When you solicit the opinions of others, you aren’t backtracking or showing weakness. Quite the opposite, in fact – your willingness to collaborate will be perceived as flexibility and mindfulness, both qualities that your staff and colleagues want to see in a leader.

If you’re finding that collaboration is difficult for you, consider how the visions of other successful leaders have been improved upon and even altered by teamwork and flexibility. You’ll find that true organizational growth and success are rarely steered by a captain at the helm who is unwilling, or unable, to listen to advice and reconsider.

Looking for a sidekick you can start teaching your leadership skills to? Consider hiring an intern. Start your search at bridge.jobs.

Cover letters: outdated?

For many decades, the job application process was formulaic to the point of being violently boring. Construct resume. Attach references. Draft cover letter. Submit package via mail or in person.

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The internet has of course changed the job search considerably through the years. For job hunters, online applications can take mere minutes to complete, physical paperwork has gone the way of the dinosaur, and “yes/no” clicks have replaced introductory phone interviews.

For employers, things are also very different. For starters, anyone with web access can learn about job openings and apply. That means that a position – say, an entry-level IT position – that would have received a few dozen responses in years past may now result in thousands of interested job hunters filling out online applications.

If you’re in human resources or internal recruiting, that means a large percentage of your time is shuffling through the (some unqualified, some unprepared, some out-of-area) masses to find those few diamonds in the rough that may one day make superstar employees.

In light of all this new way of doing businesses, cover letters have become less common. Companies just don’t require them as often as they used to. So of course the question is: should I include a cover letter?

Answer: Always include a cover letter if the employer requests one. Otherwise, include a cover letter only if you are certain it adds value to your application.

If you aren’t sure how to decide whether your cover letter is valuable, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself. Work through this list and you’ll develop a good idea of what your cover letter should do (and not do!) and whether you feel comfortable drafting one that fits into these guidelines.

Am I just repeating the information in my resume?

Nobody wants to read your resume twice, and if it looks like you’re repeating yourself you’ve just increased your odds of heading for the discard pile. It’s okay to identify your school or GPA again, but your work history, relevant coursework, and contact information belong on your resume only. Your cover letter should:

  • Tell an interesting story about yourself. Get a reader’s attention by revealing details about your interests and work ethic through an experience.
  • Explain why you’re the ideal candidate for the job. If you’re one in a dozen, or a hundred, or a thousand applicants, what makes you the one? Don’t make somebody figure that out for themselves. Explain it!

Does this look like everyone else’s cover letters?

If the answer is yes, discard and start from scratch. That same formulaic model isn’t going to help you land a job. That doesn’t mean your cover letter should look silly, but you’ve got to find a way to show that you’re an actual human being and not just a PDF.

Does this cover letter say “I really, really want this job?”

If not, you’re missing the point. This is your chance to sell yourself not just as qualified, but as interested and as a good fit for the company. In the end, candidates who just throw applications at every available position aren’t going to do very well, because organizations will quickly weed them out in favor of people who want this specific position.

If you can write a cover letter that hits all these high notes, absolutely submit it. If not, you may just be better off letting your resume stand on its own.

Looking for an internship in RI? Start your search at bridge.jobs.

Critical questions to ask in an interview [Students]

Whether you’re new to interviewing or a seasoned pro looking for a career transition, there’s one consistently tricky interview element with which everyone struggles: the candidate questions. Leaving an interview without asking any questions has two downfalls: 1) you will appear disinterested in the job and 2) you will not get the best representation of whether or not the job is a good fit for you.

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Your questions should give you real insight into the company, its employees, or both. This isn’t an opportunity to show off your question-preparing skills, it’s a chance to dig deep, demonstrate your interest, and help determine whether this is truly a good fit! These are our top suggestions:

“What do your most successful new hires do in their first week/month/year?”

This is a question that helps you to hit the ground running, successfully. It’s an “if I knew then what I know now” question, designed to help you bypass the mistakes others have made. It’s also a good way to demonstrate to a potential employer that you’re willing to walk in the path of other superstar employees, and that you realize there are right and wrong turns.

“How do you provide feedback to new hires during their on-ramp period?”

This is a question that will help you to elicit feedback from your new employer, because it shows that you want that feedback. Additionally, you’ll be able to ascertain the names and ranks of everyone who will be evaluating you, which is important information as you’re learning your new job.

“What are the biggest risks that you anticipate will come with this role?”

This is your chance to gauge the real risks that come with this position. Perhaps more importantly: you’ll quickly be able to determine whether these folks are transparent about their weaknesses. If they are, massive points in their favor! If you can’t get a reasonable answer here, ask follow-up questions. This is information that you need in order to make a good decision.

“Why did you decide to work here?”

This question redirects the attention to your interviewer, which is a terrific technique that will help your panel (or a solo interviewer) to remember you. It gives you amazing insight into a successful employee’s thought process, but it also gets your interviewer out of sync and forces the conversation into more natural territory. This is a can’t-miss question.

“Tell me about what helps to motivate you here, as a seasoned employee? What do you like the most?”

Same line of questioning as the previous question, but with a bit more probing. Stay loose here, so that you can follow up with additional questions when necessary. Keep things conversational and ask about training opportunities, incentive programs, and feedback. Talk about the management characteristics you think are most important, and ask your interviewer what she thinks. You’ll build cameraderie, learn a lot, and solidify your position as a memorable interview.

The candidate question segment is where you have, for just a few moments, the power in this interview. Use it! Direct the conversation as you’d like to, catch your interviewer off-guard, and learn as much as you can.

Ready to start searching for an internship in Rhode Island? View hundreds of listing at bridge.jobs.

When should I start my full-time job search?

Let’s start with the single best tip there is: start your job search early.

With that out of the way, there’s plenty more to talk about! How should you tackle this job search thing? What’s the correct timeline, where do you direct your attention first, and which employers deserve your time and effort?

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The big corporations

These are the guys that target recent grads in large waves. They have training programs, career fairs, on-campus interviews, and careful vetting processes to track down the skill sets that interest them most. If you’re in the pool of candidates they’ll consider, you need to start applying in the fall. Expect a long application process, followed by a long interview process, followed by a long on-ramp procedure when you start. See the trend? The bigger the company, the slower the movement.

The smaller businesses

If you want to apply for positions with smaller, local businesses, non-profits, or independently owned startups, your search will start later during your senior year. Hiring processes will likely take place in the Spring, because applications, interviews, and training move quickly.

Finding your targets

Hit the career fairs at your school first, and sign up for on-campus interviews if those are an option. This is where companies head first to scoop up new hires. Make sure you get a pair of professional eyes on your resume first, and check in with the Career Services Office to make sure you know about each and every one of these events well ahead of time.

Next, you should target companies and organizations that interest you, whether actively hiring or not. Draft a compelling cover letter that explains why that specific employer interest you. Know that you’re going to receive few responses, but try anyway. Successful job seekers leave no stone unturned!

Stay organized

When you start your job search, track application deadlines, submission dates, and dates of responses on a spreadsheet or organizational app of your choice. Keeping track of dozens (or more) of applications can get confusing, so treat the job search like it is a job. Take it seriously, and your diligence will pay off.

Did you know as many as 60% of internships turn  into full-time job offers? Start your search for internships in Rhode Island at www.bridge.jobs.

 

How long should an internship last? [Employers]

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In order to make internships as advantageous as possible for both you and the new professionals you’re helping to develop, scheduling is key. Most internships are about three months in duration, but that has the potential to vary based on the school’s academic schedule or the employer’s needs. Although some schools work on a trimester or quarter schedule, the vast majority are in a standard split semester, with a winter and spring semester separated by winter and summer breaks. Typical options will be:

  • Fall (September-December) which will terminate at the beginning of Winter break. This is a full semester internship.
  • Winter (November-January), terminating at the start of the Spring Semester. The work schedule will typically start before Thanksgiving break and the intern will maintain a work schedule through both major breaks, making this an ideal option for students who take a course overload (over 15 hours) or work long hours at other jobs.
  • Spring (January-May) terminates at the start of summer break and represents the other typical, full-semester internship option.
  • Summer (May-August) is often the best opportunity for full-time students who can’t accommodate additional obligations during the school year. Considering that summer is likely business as usual for you, this could be the best option if you want to offer a once-annual internship available to the largest candidate pool or if you are interested in full-time interns only.

Although semester-long internships are a typical offering, there are no hard rules regarding the duration of your relationship!

If things are going well and everyone is benefiting from the experience, you can offer your intern an extension through the following semester (using the guidelines above) or even offering part or full-time work. You have, after all, been training this new professional on all of the job skills that you expect from an employee – why not continue to benefit?

Make sure to ask your internship candidates about academic and work obligations that could interfere with their schedule, and try your best to be flexible. Interns often have myriad obligations that can be tricky to balance. In the end, your work with your interns has great potential for both of you!

Ready to start your search for an intern? Post your opportunity for free on bridge.jobs.