Despite graduating at the top of my class, I found myself applying for countless jobs nowhere near where I thought I would be once I became the first in my family to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
I interviewed to be a future payroll specialist, medical sales rep, dog food saleswoman, and even a theme park character. As you can imagine, I ended up taking a low-level hourly job to help pay the rent.
Within three years, though, I went from working for ten dollars an hour in an admissions office… to my dream job.
I am now working from home, speaking around the country, consulting with companies at which I’d once dreamed of being employed, hosting a television show, and getting half a dozen job offers. And trust me, I’m no genius (although I may have set a record for highest GPA ever for a theme park character). I come from a low-income family. I had zero connections when I started. And I had no idea what I was doing in the professional world.
What I did have was the willingness to share what I cared deeply about. On my blog and through social media, I engaged deeply with those that also cared. For years, many have said, “It’s not who you know, but who knows you.” I never knew what that really meant until I really connected with others online.
Whether you dream of being your own boss, saving the world as a non-profit leader, being a life-changing teacher, or finding a job at that perfect-fit company, building an online brand helps you get known, be recognized, and get job offers. Oh and your resume will just be a formality; they will barely glance at it because they’ll already know they want you.
How do you get to the point where your resume doesn’t matter?
Add Value to Your Industry
To build your online presence is to add value in your desired industry. When you do that, the key players will find and want to work with you. And when you reach out to them yourself (which you should), they’ll see you as instantly credible when they see the work you’ve been doing online. I’ll be honest with you, this is much harder than formatting a resume, but the rewards are sweet and yield results that you can’t even fathom when you begin.
I started my online presence because a book about how to get your non-fiction book published told me I had to (I was reading it years ago in preparation to write my first book). So I started a blog. I got up early and wrote once a week before work. I tweeted my blog posts. I did that for almost a year without anything happening.
And then, someone from the largest global learning company, Pearson, saw my blog on Twitter. She started following me. We started interacting. Eventually Pearson became my first consulting client; I was able to leave my traditional job, work from home, speak around the country, and start a consulting business.
A few months later a local cable station e-mailed me asking if I’d travel to their location a few times a year to host their new college success TV show; they had found me on YouTube.
And as Thomas Friedman said in The New York Times (bold mine):
“What’s exciting is that this platform [the Internet & social media] empowers individuals to access learning, retrain, engage in commerce, seek or advertise a job, invent, invest and crowd source — all online.
“But this huge expansion in an individual’s ability to do all these things comes with one big difference: more now rests on you. If you are self-motivated, wow, this world is tailored for you. The boundaries are all gone. But if you’re not self-motivated, this world will be a challenge because the walls, ceilings and floors that protected people are also disappearing.”
Those who will really have job security in the 21st century are those who use their online presence to consistently contribute to an industry, even when they’re not getting paid for it. The process is continuous, and while it requires a lot of hard work and dedication, once you get going it can actually be quite fun.
Write Down What You Want
What do you think about when you go to bed? What gets you up in the morning? What moves you? What makes you feel the most alive?
Building a personal brand will be the hardest thing in the world if you do not first define what it is you really want and align that with who you are, what you’re good at, and what the world needs. There are hundreds of books dedicated to helping you discover your strengths and think about what you want to do with your life. But don’t stop there – today’s careers often aren’t in books.
Be creative. Explore. Get involved. And you’ll learn what you want. And until you know what kind of job you want, write down what you want out of life and read those goals every morning.
Choose Your Online Tool
Choose an online platform – and start adding value in your industry:
- Start a free blog and write once a week. Start a Twitter if you haven’t already; follow key people in your industry, retweet and share industry news, and interact with people who work at the organizations to which you aspire.
- Update your LinkedIn profile and start joining the conversation in your industry groups; search the companies and jobs you find interesting and study the “resumes” on LinkedIn – where did they get their start? Connect with some of them and ask for their advice.
- Start a YouTube channel and film a short video of yourself teaching someone how to do something, or start a Facebook page where you share industry news, quotes, and conversation starters.
If this feels like a lot and you feel overwhelmed, remember this ironic fact:
The person that matters most in your personal is not you – it’s your audience.
Ask yourself: Who can you help with your knowledge and talents? Where can you make a difference? Speak to them. Make their life better, easier, more joyful.
You have more to offer than you realize. And while the Internet seems crowded, you’d be surprised at how much room there is for you. There are problems only you can solve and people out there who need you. Find your niche, then work so hard that your resume… doesn’t matter.
Isa Adney is the founder of CommunityCollegeSuccess.com and author of Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, & the Career of Your Dreams. Isa speaks to students regularly about diversity, networking, and leadership. She’d love to connect with you on her blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Sign up right now and receive her free ebook: How to Get a Job Without a Resume.