How to Create Your Professional Value Proposition

As a job seeker, you have skills, experiences, and accomplishments that employers need. As an important part of your job search, you need to promote your background and achievements, so employers recognize them, interview you, and hire you. One way to achieve this is to create a professional value proposition. 

A professional value proposition is a statement of tangible benefits (value) an employer receives from hiring you. It is a statement that clearly promotes your unique ability, knowledge, experience, achievements – whatever you want to promote about yourself – in such a way that the employer can clearly recognize your value and benefits of hiring you. 

The first step in creating your professional value proposition is a simple recognition of your professional occupation. Are you a sales professional, patient attorney, engineer, administrative assistant, programmer and the list of occupations goes on?

Next, identify abilities, knowledge, experiences, achievements from your professional background. These are those things that an employer would value. Think of them as keywords or phrases. Identify then list keywords or phrases that qualify you for your desired position and make you uniquely qualified compared to others in the same or similar occupation. 

When you list your abilities and achievements, avoid including soft skills and qualities (e.g. integrity, perseverance, etc.). Employers tend to screen for skills and accomplishments first, then inquire about soft skills later. In other words, having the strongest work ethic in the world is meaningless if you don’t have the basic skills to do the job. So, when creating your professional value proposition, focus on knowledge and ability over soft skills.

You are now ready to pull it all together and start creating your professional value proposition. Here are some examples to get you thinking: 

Senior Sales Executive with Experience in Workers’ Compensation, Pain

Management, Leadership.


Product Development Professional Applying Behavioral Research to Health Care


There are several uses for your professional value proposition. It can be used as your headline on your LinkedIn profile, in your Summary (About) on your LinkedIn profile, on your resume, business cards, etc. 

Having a well-crafted professional value proposition will quickly announce to employers the benefit and value of hiring you. You will create more interest in your background compared to those job seekers who do not promote themselves with a professional value proposition. 

Not all Hiring Executives Know How to Interview

Do not assume that hiring executives know how to conduct an effective interview.  Many hiring executives do not like to interview and therefore few ever take the time and effort to learn how to do it correctly.  Although the hiring executive has the authority to hire, a poorly conducted interview can greatly diminish your chances of advancing in the process or getting an offer. 

These are a couple of tell-tale signs that you could be interviewing with an inexperienced interviewer:

  1. Hiring executive launches into a description of his career progression.
  2. The hiring executive hogs all the time talking about the company and asks no or few questions of you and your background. 
  3. The hiring executive is preoccupied or disinterested by work priorities.
  4. The hiring executive allows their computer or phone to distract them in an interview with emails, texts, or calls.  

If faced with these situations, it is upon you to make sure the interview goes well.  This means that you must take the lead and make sure the hiring executive gets enough information to see that you are qualified and the best candidate for the job. 

The trick to this is you must be subtle. You cannot commandeer the interview.  It can be as simple as “thank you for the information you have shared. I would like to provide you with some details about my background as it relates to this position.” In some cases, this will be an enormous relief for the hiring executive – they are off the hook!

The approach is to match what is required or needed in the position with your knowledge, experience, and achievements.  Go right down the list.  Frequently, this will create questions from the hiring executive with the result in a productive exchange of information- ahh!…an effective interview. 

By taking charge of the interview, you will provide information to the hiring executive that he otherwise would not know and provide reasons to hire you. Compared to other candidates who suffer through a mundane ineffective interview, who do you think stands a better chance at getting an offer?

When A Recruiter Calls (Part 2) …And You’re Not Interested or Not Qualified.

Talent has become our most sought-after resource.  Seventy-five percent (75%) of senior human resource managers say that “attracting and retaining” talent is their number one priority.

Professionals who exercise a high degree of judgment (tacit decision-making) as a part of their job are in the most demand. 

How you handle yourself when a recruiter reaches out to you can either kick open the door of opportunity or isolate you from a source of career growth.  In this article we will discuss how to handle yourself when a recruiter contacts you and you are either not interested or not qualified for the position.

If you are contacted by LinkedIn InMail, it is permissible to simply not respond. The recruiter will interpret this as not being interested.

Avoid rejecting or declining the message. A communication history is created when you do this and the recruiter could skip over you next time even though the new position would be of interest to you and your situation about a job change is different.

The best approach when receiving an InMail message from a recruiter is to acknowledge the InMail but indicate that you are not interested but to stay in touch.  By responding you make a positive impression in the mind of a recruiter that can pay big dividends in the future.

It’s permissible and encouraged to speak with recruiters even though you are not interested in making a career move. When responding, tell the recruiter that you are not actively pursuing a career move, but would like to have a brief introductory conversation. On the call, provide some background information about yourself. 

Speaking with recruiters helps you be in control of your career.  All employment is temporary.  Change can happen suddenly in the form of restructuring, layoffs, and downsizing.  Listening to and speaking with recruiters will keep you in touch with the industry trends. Recruiters can be an excellent source of industry information as well as future opportunity.  Always build positive relationships with recruiters.

Whenever possible, provide a referral name for further networking. Recruiters have long memories and they remember those who help them.  Recruiters are in the networking business, and you should be, too! Referrals could include the names of colleagues within your company or someone outside your organization.  Good recruiters respect confidentiality.  If you provide a referral and do not want your name released as the source of the referral, ask that it not be.  However, the referral system works best when the recruiter can identify the referral source.

Ask questions about the recruiter.  Could the recruiter be a good source of information and a valuable member of your professional network?  Reasonable questions would include the recruiter’s tenure in the business, positions s/he specializes, segmentation (kinds of organizations s/he works with), and geographical reach (in case you ever want to relocate).  If you like what you hear and get a good feeling about the recruiter, make sure you get connected on LinkedIn.

Volunteer a resume.  If the recruiter specializes in your industry and position type, it is a good idea to volunteer a resume.  When future opportunities come around, a recruiter does not have to rely solely on notes if a resume is provided.  That extra information could put you at the top of the list for future opportunities.  Although it goes without saying with most recruiters, ask that your resume not be released without your prior permission.

Finally, openly share information.  This could be information about your own company as well as what you’ve heard about others (mergers, acquisitions, and so on.).  This information sharing will help you and the recruiter (and you foster a good relationship…one that could be very valuable to you in the future). Recruiters will reciprocate and both of you will be more informed about the industry as a result.

If you follow these guidelines, you will have handled yourself professionally with the recruiter even though you are not presently interested in a career move.  You will have laid the foundation for a productive relationship with a recruiter that could be a valuable resource for information as well as future career opportunities.

Brian Howard, J.D. is a Certified Career Management Coach (CCMC), a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS), a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), and an actively practicing executive recruiter. He is the author of the Motivated Series of job search books which include The Motivated Job Search (2nd Ed.), Over 50 and Motivated, The Motivated Networker, Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles, and The Motivated College Graduate.   

When A Recruiter Calls (Part 1) …And You’re Interested!

Talent has become the world’s most sought-after resource.  As the economy changes and grows, organizations will continue to seek out the “brainpower” and top human talent to drive their organizations to excellence.

A poll conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, a provider of business research and executive education, discovered that 75% of senior human resource managers said that “attracting and retaining” talent was their number one priority.

McKinsey, a management consultancy, came to a similar conclusion in a fascinatingly different way.  The consultancy divided American jobs into three categories: “transformational” (taking raw materials and converting them into a finished product), “transactional” (interactions that can easily be scripted or automated) and “tacit” (complex interactions requiring a high level of judgment).  The consultancy concludes that over the past several years the number of American jobs that emphasize “tacit interactions” has grown at a three-time faster pace than employment in general.  And, “tacit” jobs account for 70% of the jobs created.

What does all this mean to you?  PLENTY!  Virtually all positions requiring the services of a recruiter are “tacit” positions requiring the use of judgment.  And, companies are very aware of the shortage of talent.  Bottom line: your skills and experience are in demand.  Expect and be prepared to be contacted by a recruiter.

Being in demand does not necessarily put you in the driver’s seat when dealing with a recruiter.  Recruiters are hired to locate several qualified candidates for any particular position.  Handling yourself incorrectly when a recruiter calls can cut you off from current or future career opportunities. Alternatively, handling yourself correctly and with professionalism will put you in a position for current and future opportunities with this recruiter.  

In part one of this two-part series, we will discuss how to respond to a recruiter’s communication when you are interested and qualified in the position.  Then, in part two, how to respond when you are not interested or not qualified. 

More than likely, your first contact by a recruiter will either be a message through LinkedIn, email, or voicemail. Always respond promptly.  The evaluation process has already begun.  Are you the caliber of professional who is responsive and can successfully juggle multiple tasks in a reasonable time frame?  Your response time is important and will be noted by the recruiter.

When you speak with the recruiter, listen to what the recruiter has to say.  The recruiter may ask a few qualifying questions to determine your suitability for the position.  Be honest in who you are, what you do, and what you have achieved.  Do not exaggerate or embellish. You are positioning yourself for both the presented opportunity and ones for the future. Recruiters and hiring executives have a knack at getting to the truth.  If your exaggeration is discovered, the recruiter will not work with you on any other current or future opportunities.  And, there is nothing preventing the hiring executive from telling other of your embellishment.  Something you do not want.

Be articulate and positive.  The fact that you have been contacted means that you might have the right qualifications for the position.  How you communicate and your demeanor is being evaluated.  All organizations seek a candidate who can communicate concepts clearly and have positive, can-do attitude.

After you have answered the recruiter’s questions and s/he has informed you about the opportunity, ask reasonable questions about the opportunity.  These questions should be directed towards determining whether you are interested in the position.  Avoid asking too detailed of questions…ones that are better asked to the hiring executive during an interview. 

Be decisive.  If the opportunity appeals to you, say so.  It’s okay to ask for a short period of time to evaluate the company should the recruiter disclose the company name. Part of the recruiter’s evaluation process is to locate candidates who know what they want and can make informed decisions.  But, be prompt and always call the recruiter back with your decision.

Ask questions about the recruiter.  Find out who you are dealing with.  Questions about the recruiter’s tenure in the business, positions s/he specializes, segmentations (kinds of organizations s/he works with), and geographical reach are all fair game.  Gain a comfort level.  You may be working with this recruiter for the next couple of months or have communications over the rest of your career.

Depending upon how you feel about the recruiter and his/her level of expertise, ask for a candid opinion from the recruiter regarding the positives and negatives of pursuing the described position.  This opinion should be given in light of your current situation.  Is the recruiter selling you on the position or consulting with you toward the right decision – a good match?  Keep that conclusion in mind should you proceed forward in the process. 

Recruiters have differing philosophies about discussing compensation on the first call.  However, it is permissible to ask.  If your current compensation is $200,000 more than what the position can offer, there may be no reason to continue.  The recruiter will likely ask for your compensation (be honest) and respond as to whether you are in the hiring range.

Never manipulate a recruiter’s call into a solicitation for a raise or counter-offer from your current employer.  If you do, you will cut yourself off from future opportunities from this recruiter.  Word about that kind of behavior tends gets around. 

Should you pursue the opportunity, update and provide a resume as soon as reasonably possible.  When recruiters present candidates, they usually provide the hiring executive with a summary of your qualifications and a resume.  Not providing a resume can put you at a competitive disadvantage when the hiring executive decides who to interview. A reasonably complete LinkedIn profile can suffice in the short term, but an up-to-date resume should be provided.

If you follow these guidelines, you will have handled yourself professionally with the recruiter.  Depending upon your qualifications and those of other candidates, your credentials and background may be presented to the company.

Brian Howard, J.D. is a Certified Career Management Coach (CCMC), a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS), a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), and an actively practicing executive recruiter. He is the author of the Motivated Series of job search books which include The Motivated Job Search (2nd Ed.), Over 50 and Motivated, The Motivated Networker, Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles, and The Motivated College Graduate.   

12 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Your Resume


Brian E. Howard, CCMC, CJSS, CPRW

Paula Christensen, CPRW, CCMC, CJSS

During a job search, having an impactful résumé is imperative. It sells your abilities, accomplishments, professional traits, and establishes the match between you and the open position. Properly written and creatively presented, it will differentiate you from other job seekers.

Below are 12 common and some not so common résumé mistakes that are easily avoidable and can help create a positive mental impression of you in the mind of the HR recruiter or hiring executive.

1. Not proofreading your document.

Having spelling and grammatical errors can be fatal. For example, a recent candidate’s spell check program did not pick up a critical error. His résumé inadvertently included the word collage (a piece of art made by sticking different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric onto a backing) instead of college (an educational institution). Proofreading your résumé is mandatory. Have someone unfamiliar with your résumé read it carefully to check homophones (words having the same pronunciation but different meanings), run-on sentences, appropriate use of apostrophes and plurals, capitalization, and the correct use of verb tenses.

2. Unattractive formatting/design.

The very first impression of you that a résumé sends is its appearance. It must be easy-on-the-eyes, have a straightforward flow, and capture the reader’s attention. Use a font between 10 – 12 points with larger name and category headers. Include sufficient white space and be consistent when laying out categories.

3. Listing job duties rather than achievements.

It’s your job to show evidence of how you have gone above and beyond. Recruiters and hiring managers appreciate achievements supported by hard data. Tell the HR recruiter what you do, then prove to them that you are good at it by listing your achievements.


Responsible for sales to end users via company website. 


#1 Sales Rep – outperformed closest representative by 44%. Exceeded outbound calling expectations by 60%.

The before example reads like a job description. Being responsible for sales to end users is the job duty of every sales representative. The after example gives scope, comparing this individual to both other sales reps and the team’s goal expectations. Dig more deeply into your job duties. How have you made money, improved a process, or boosted your team’s performance? Then put it on your resume!

4. Ineffective/nonexistent keywords.

Keywords are nouns and phrases that HR Professionals use to search their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) databases for résumés that match job requirements for job openings. Ninety percent of large companies use applicant tracking systems to search for qualified candidates.

Keywords can include:

Position Titles, Target Jobs, Industries, Skill Sets, Company/Employer Names, Specific Universities, Degrees, Licenses, Certifications, Software Experience, Location: Area codes, City/State Names, and Soft Skills (for example communication and interpersonal skills).

You can find keywords within job postings, job descriptions, LinkedIn Profiles, and O*NET.

Jobscan is a useful site that allows users to paste text from a job description and their résumé and then calculate a score for keyword matches.

5. Incomplete/unprofessional contact section.

Include links to your social media (LinkedIn and other professional websites). Your full name, your street address (optional), city of reside, zip code, and your phone number(s).

Include a professional e-mail address, omit the Employers say inappropriate email addresses can make all the difference in whether they call the candidate for an interview.

6. Including an objective statement.

The objective statement has fallen out of favor with employers. A résumé is not the place to tell an employer what you want, but rather to sell yourself on how you can benefit the employer. Instead of an objective statement, use an introductory or summary section to capture interest and set the tone for those who are making decisions about you. Include your experience, skills, and career accomplishments. You will want to highlight 3-5 of your greatest strengths that relate to the next job you are seeking.

An introductory section can include any of the following:

  • Title
  • Industry
  • Number of years of experience
  • Expertise
  • Strengths
  • Accomplishment(s)
  • Advanced degree/certification
  • Language skills
  • Technical skills
  • Management style

7. Not including a title statement.

A title statement is a short statement listing the job you are targeting. Be reasonably specific with your résumé title. For example, “Senior Healthcare Sales Representative,” “Property & Casualty Field Claims Professional.”

Why include a title statement and why modify it for each job?

  • A title helps with identification and tracking within the hiring company. In a smaller company where they don’t do much hiring, identification may not be an issue. In a larger company, your information may be distributed to several HR associates and hiring managers.
  • A title helps with applicant tracking system (ATS) recognition. It’s another chance to help you identify with the exact position you are applying for. Having the exact keyword on your résumé is especially crucial for new graduates who may never have held the role they are targeting. It’s a bit covert; you’re adding the role (keywords) even though you haven’t held that job – the computer doesn’t know the difference.

8. Neglecting to include a skills section.

While not all résumés contain a skills section, including one may be helpful when you want to emphasize the abilities you have acquired from your various jobs or activities that relate to the position you are applying for. Listing skills, competencies, and strengths also helps strengthen your keywords.

9. Lack of a showcase section.

Statistics show HR and hiring executives generally spend between five and ten seconds when first looking at a résumé. A showcase section appearing at the top third of your résumé capitalizes on this limited time. Use this section to boast your most formidable professional selling points – achievements, expertise, and product knowledge – the powerful elements of your background that differentiate you from others.

10. Irrelevant or outdated information.

Anything not relevant is muddling up your message. Hiring managers and recruiters are busy, if your résumé is not crystal clear on the job you are targeting and what your focus is, hiring managers and recruiters will place you in a category (which may be incorrect) or worse yet, not know where to place you at all.

Most job seekers only need to list 10-15 years of experience. Covering more than 15 years of work experience may give the appearance that you are older than you are and even overqualified. Cut out long descriptions from roles that are over five years ago. Omit certifications, training classes, and professional affiliations that are no longer significant. If you held a role briefly that doesn’t fit with your career narrative, consider trimming it to make room for other accomplishments or cutting it out altogether.

11. Not matching your LinkedIn profile exactly.

Not aligning your résumé and LinkedIn profile creates problems for both. HR recruiters get suspicious when a résumé represents one thing, and your LinkedIn profile another – especially when it comes to dates of employment.

12. Length is too short or too long.

The standard rule for most résumés is no more than two pages. Properly written and formatted, most professionals can create an informative and impactful résumé within this two-page standard. Longer résumés tend to be poorly formatted or become “career narratives” which are laborious to read. One-page résumés may be appropriate for new grads and early-career job seekers.

Brian Howard, J.D. is a Certified Career Management Coach (CCMC), a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS), a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), an actively practicing executive recruiter, and President of The Howard Group. He is the author of the Motivated Series of job search books which include The Motivated Job Search (2nd Ed.), Over 50 and Motivated, The Motivated Networker, Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles, and the soon to be released book, The Motivated College Graduate.   

Paula Christensen, is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), Certified Career Management Coach (CCMC), and a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS). Paula combines experience as a Resume Writer, Career Coach, and Former Recruiter to help clients identify their strengths and unique values to make them more marketable. She was recognized with a résumé writing award last year by Career Directors International as part of their annual Toast of the Resume Industry contest (TORI Award). She was awarded third place in the New Graduate category. Paula will have sample résumés and career advice included in two Spring 2019 publications; The Motivated College Graduate and Resumes for Dummies.  

Writing a Persuasive Cover Letter

Understand that most cover letters do not get read.  It is only after some level of interest in you is established that your cover letter might get read. Regardless, it is always a good job search strategy to write a well-crafted and persuasive cover letter.  Doing so immediately differentiates you from other job seekers by highlighting strong points in your background, providing a sample of your writing ability and shows initiative – you made the effort to write a letter when other job seekers did not. 

What follows is a cover letter success formula which has proven successful over the course of time.  For every letter you write it must be targeted to the job that you are perusing.  It must be short and to-the-point (long cover letters don’t get read). It must be proof read with a “fine tooth comb”. Now onto the cover letter success formula:

Create Interest

For your cover letter to be effective, you must quickly gain the attention of the employer.  Begin your letter with something that will grab the attention of the hiring executive or be thought provoking. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Mention the name of a personal or professional reference, if you have one.
  2. Come out swinging with one of your top achievements.
  3. Identify yourself with a unique or sought-after skill or knowledge base.
  4. Refer to a business statistic that would be relevant to the employer.
  5. Mention a recent company event or news release that is significant. 
  6. State your letter by quoting a recommendation or positive statement in your past performance reviews. 


After you have the hiring executive’s attention, identify yourself by job function which matches one that the company already has. Use the exact wording for the job title used by the company, if you can.  This immediately makes you relevant and encourages the hiring executive to read on. For example:

As in industrial engineer with 20 years of manufacturing experience…

I am a senior level account management professional specializing in…

Showcase an Accomplishment/Qualification

The accomplishments paragraph is important now that you have created interest and matched a known company role.  This is where you tell them how good you are or how uniquely qualified you are. 

Make your accomplishments relevant by identifying the positions key requirements, linking your qualifications to them, and then show your achievements (results) in each or most of the job functions.  In other words, tell the hiring executive that you can do the job and have a track record of doing well. For example, here is a job description for a Director of Operations:

Candidate must have at least ten years’ experience managing multisite locations Individual will have experience with the following: process management systems, personnel management, performance improvement, and emergency response plans.

When writing your cover letter, match the exact wording to demonstrate your skills

in the listed job requirements. This paragraph of your cover letter could look like this

(important portions in bold for clarification):

In the last fifteen years, I have worked as a director of operations for three manufacturers in the plastics industry. During my most recent position at See Through Plastics, LLC, I had success in the following areas:

  • Managed four manufacturing facilities in four separate regions of the country. Exceeded production and profit goals for the last five consecutive years.
  • Designed and implemented a process management system that resulted in improved production efficiency by 32 percent and increased product output by 20 percent.
  • Created a workplace accountability matrix with floor supervisors that decreased

absenteeism of workers by 15 percent while improving productivity per worker by 21 percent.

Provide Additional Information

In this paragraph (Should you decide to include it) you have a fair amount of latitude on what information to mention.  Choose topics that are relevant or impressive to the employer.  This could include a strong achievement, a recommendation, a professional insight about yourself to personalize the letter, or a piece of information relevant to your job search such as relocation.   


Conclude your letter by using a brief closing statement and depending upon the use of this letter your intention to follow up. For example:

Based on my track record of successful operational efficiency, I believe that I have the qualifications and accomplishments to make a positive impact on ABC Inc. I look forward to discussing this opportunity with you and I will contact your office next week. 

By following this cover letter success formula, you will have a well-crafted and persuasive cover letter.  It will differentiate you from other job seekers.  Once constructed it can serve as a customizable template for different job opportunities. 

All It Takes Is One

During a job search, all you are looking for is the one – “right” – job offer. To achieve that goal, you will have a lot of interviews. If you are successfully conducting a proactive job search, you will likely have several interviews with several companies. Factor in disappointment and rejection as an inescapable part of the process. Hold onto the fact that you only need one offer, the right offer, from the right company and your mission is accomplished.


Realize that there will be employers that will pass on you or you could pass on them. It’s all a process of elimination from employers and you. Eventually, everyone gets an offer. It’s a matter of time and the selection process – yours and potential employers.


As a recruiter, I have told hundreds of candidates that an employer is going to pursue other candidates, or the job went to “the other candidate.” When that happens, I frequently tell those candidates that the time will shortly come when they will be the selected candidate and the others will not be getting the offer you are going to receive. Those are more than words of comfort…its truth. It’s remarkable how often things seem to just work out, especially for those job seekers who persevere and don’t allow disappoint and setbacks to derail their job search. Just remember, all it takes is one.

Your Dream Job – What does it really look like?

In the real world of employment, a truly perfect job doesn’t exist. If jobs were perfect, people would stay in the same job their entire lives. That’s simply not realistic. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream about that perfect job. The key is to be realistic about what is “perfect.” There will always be duties and responsibilities that come with every job that are not pleasant. So, what does a perfect job really look like? The following is one way to evaluate whether you have found that “perfect” job.


Start by creating a list of all of the characteristics of your perfect job. Write everything down. Brainstorm. Then, go through the list and determine those characteristics that you “must-have,” those that would be “nice-to-have,” and eliminate those that you can live without. Be practical and reasonable with your list of characteristics.


Now, give yourself 100 points and assign them to your “must-haves.” This will help you rank those must-haves by importance to you. This approach might reveal that some must-haves could fall back into the nice-to-have column. It’s an exercise to test the reality of what is truly important to you.


As you evaluate new opportunities, how does it stack up against your list? If you can get all or the majority of your must-haves, the opportunity is clearly worth your consideration.


By the way, this is a good exercise if you are currently employed, too! In some cases, you might discover that your current situation, though not ideal, is a good situation to stay in. In other words, the grass might not be greener on the other side of the fence.

Getting off to a Successful Start with Your Job Search

Beyond “I need to update my resume,” many job seekers don’t know what to do, let alone in what order to do it, especially if they are starting the job search from scratch. It can easily be overwhelming, especially if you didn’t expect to become unemployed, haven’t looked for a job in a long time, or just need to find a new job. Relax and take a deep breath. We are going to list, then briefly discuss, the A-1 priorities to successfully launch your job search (and reduce any feelings of anxiety you have about getting started). Here we go:

  1. Get (and keep) your emotions in check. This is the first order of business. If you need a day or a weekend to work through the emotions of losing your job before starting your job search, that’s fine, but no more than that. You don’t have time for a pity party! Now here comes the big secret: the moment you start taking real action steps to begin your job search, the sooner the feelings of anxiety, fear, and even anger will fade. Not dwelling on the past moves you forward to your future and your next job.
  2. Identify your keywords. What words apply to you? Start simple. What titles have you held? What industries have you worked in? What knowledge do you have? These concepts and others will form the messaging behind who you are and how you present yourself to the job market. There will be much more on keywords in The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) book.
  3. Get organized. You will need to make lists—of companies, people, and to-do lists. Think through how you will keep track of everything. Relying on your memory or sticky notes in a shotgun fashion is a recipe for disaster. In the thick of your job search, you won’t be able to keep track of what you’re doing without a system. Excel spreadsheets are highly recommended for creating lists of companies and people. Only create columns for the information you will really need (name of contact, company, company website, email address, phone number, date contacted). Don’t get carried away recording non-useful information. There are commercial services that can help you stay organized in your job search. Check out JibberJobber ( and CareerShift ( Microsoft Outlook’s calendar feature can also help. You can record tasks to be done, schedule follow-up calls, and so on.
  4. Create a short list of target employers you would be interested in working for. It may be only three, five, or ten companies to start with. Add to the list as you discover new companies. The point here is to start the list that gets you thinking. Now, look up the companies on LinkedIn. Follow them by setting up alerts for news, press releases, and job postings. Google Alerts may also be used. If you have Twitter, follow the companies. This starts the flow of information from these companies (and others you’ll add), including jobs and industry trends, which will benefit your job search. Add this information to your Excel spreadsheets to create a complete picture of each company before moving ahead, to eliminate needless backtracking for additional research.
  1. Create a short list of networking contacts. This one is like the list of companies from the last step. Make a list of close professional colleagues you feel comfortable speaking to about your circumstances and job search. As you think of more, add to the list. This list likely will not exceed twenty to twenty-five names to begin with (although it could be more). After you make out the list, do not contact them. You are not ready (even though you may think you are). Regardless of your business or personal relationships, don’t “blow it” by not being properly prepared. Be patient. Read the Professional Networking section of The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) and do things right the first time.
  1. Update your resume. Either prepare one yourself or seek professional services (which will free your time for other job-search activities). Having your resume professionally prepared could be a good investment.
  2. Update your LinkedIn profile and expand your network. The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.)  book discusses LinkedIn at length and how to optimize your profile by leveraging the programming and algorithms. Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are in sync with each other (especially the names of former employers and dates of employment).  Expand your network by adding one hundred new connections (it’s not as hard as you may think). These have to be the right kind of high-value connections (explained in the book) that will significantly advance your job search.
  3. Create job alerts. Use websites like and You can choose to be alerted about titles, locations, specific companies (from your short list), and so on. Set up job alerts on LinkedIn too. Companies (and recruiters) post jobs on LinkedIn and you can receive notifications when they do. Are there any industry-specific or niche job boards you could search?  Get a sense of the job market, and start the flow of opportunities you are looking for. If a position pops up, and you’re interested, do not apply for it through the website. Research the likely hiring executive(s) and contact them directly. This strategy is discussed in The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) book.


Branding and Your Job Search

It is imperative that you craft a professional brand that announces your distinct talents and what you represent to the marketplace. The process of branding is discovering who you are, what you are, what are your unique abilities, and communicating them through various mediums to your network or target market.

The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) book lists numerous benefits of creating an impactful brand, including:

  1. You will differentiate yourself from other job seekers, and gain a huge advantage.
  2. You create the initial impression the employer has of you.
  3. You can more quickly convey your value to the employer.
  4. You can more easily match your skills and value proposition to the employer’s needs.


  1. You can better determine which opportunities to pursue.

The drawback of not having a professional brand is simple: you are an unknown, you become ordinary or a commodity. Employers will determine for themselves what they want to see in you. They will cast you in a light based on their own conclusions, which may not be the message you want to communicate. There is no perceived differentiation from other job seekers. And, you cannot command a premium, and have reduced leverage when it comes to compensation.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of creating a professional brand is the self-awareness of your unique skills and experience, and recognition of how they work together to create an impact. You will project the value of your abilities more clearly, resulting in a job that’s a good match for your skill set. Branding can also help you set your sights on what you want your future career to be.

Additionally, when your networking contacts know your brand, they are much more likely to advance it for you through referrals, recommendations, and so on. When the right opportunities come along, you become top of mind (because of your brand).

The professional-branding process is written about in The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.)The process starts with introspection and thoughtful reflection. In some cases, thinking through your branding can be both an emotional and a professionally enlightening event.

Think of it this way: as a job seeker, your goal is to connect with employers both intellectually (you can do the job) and emotionally (you’re a good fit). Having a well-crafted, professional brand helps on both levels. You must be perceived as the right candidate, and through branding you are better able to align yourself to an open job position.

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of your brand is determined by the connection that exists between what the brand claims and what it can actually deliver. In other words, you must be able to prove and quantify your professional brand. Failing to do so will have disastrous results. Don’t oversell your brand and capabilities.

Create a succinct brand. Think of it, in analogous terms, as a tagline or a theme that will be the foundation for your job search.

To help determine your brand, ask yourself some questions:

  1. What am I good at or an expert in?
  2. What have I been recognized for?
  3. What is my reputation with others (subordinates, peers, senior management)?
  4. What have been my strong points in past job reviews (if applicable)?
  5. What differentiates me from others with the same job?
  6. What professional qualities do I have that make me good at my job?
  7. What are the professional achievements I am most proud of?

The answers to these questions and the thoughts they provoke are essential to forming your brand. Now, synthesize the answers and thoughts into single words or short phrases that capture the concept of your responses. Here are some examples:


Award-winning sales executive with experience in workers’ compensation, pain management, consistently exceeding sales goals.

Operations Management

Operations executive dedicated to improving operational efficiency through effective leadership.


Account Management

Client-focused account manager focused on client satisfaction and retention.

ERISA Lawyer

Experienced attorney protecting ERISA fiduciaries from the Department of Labor.

A branding statement could also be a few separate descriptive words or phrases:

Process Improvement ▪ Lean Six Sigma ▪ Turn-around Specialist

Marketing ▪ Advertising ▪ Public Relations

The purpose of branding is to get you known for the value you offer, get you in the door, and differentiate you from other job seekers.