Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: personal branding

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to personal branding.

Why You Need a Custom Email Domain for Your Job Search (and how to set one up)

EmailYou already (hopefully) know that the email address you created in high school or when first discovering Hotmail is not appropriate for your professional resume. Fortunately, most IT contractors we work with are not using awesome_dude1234@hotmail.com or golden-girls-fanatic@gmail.com. They have switched to a more professional format like john.smith@gmail.com.

But, did you know you might still be hurting your job search with a free email, school email, or the email address supplied by your ISP? A smaller proportion of applicants are differentiating themselves and their emails by investing in a custom domain like johnsmith.com and using it to create an email address like projects@johnsmith.com. Here are just some of the benefits you can get from it:

  • It looks more professional than a free domain or one supplied to you by an Internet Service Provider or school
  • Emails coming from a custom domain appear more credible and are less likely to end up in a spam folder
  • If you host a website at that domain, a recruiter will easily find it for more information about you
  • You gain more control in choosing a service provider because you don’t get tied down to an ISP (ex. Sympatico.ca).
  • It is an extra expense to claim in your business
  • It makes it easier to separate the emails from your personal and business life
  • Investing in a custom domain shows you’re serious about your business

How Can You Create an Email Address with a Custom Domain Today?

  1. Find the Domain

Purchasing a domain can costs around $15-$30/year on average. If you already have one to host a website, great! You can use that and proceed to the next step. Otherwise, perform a detailed search to learn what’s available. You can do so through any website that registers domains, and we recommend sticking with one that you can also use as a host. Popular ones like GoDaddy or iPage are often a go-to, but a quick Google search will display a number of options.

When choosing a domain, it’s recommended to stick with something simple like firstnamelastname.com; however, if you have a common name, there is a strong chance it is no longer available. Instead, try searching for the same name at a different top-level domain, such as .ca, .net, .me or .info. You might also use your company name or add a description to your domain, like firstnamelastnamePMP.com or lastnameprogramming.com. It is not recommended to add numbers or hyphens to your custom domain.

  1. Decide on an Email Host

The majority of the time, the registrar of your domain will also offer hosting for both websites and emails. Some will even offer free email hosting for a period of time. Otherwise, you can shop around to find an email hosting service that works for you. Considerations when deciding on the right host should include security, dependability, convenience, support and cost (remember to read the fine print, often times prices shoot up drastically after the first year or two).

Regardless of the host, you’ll almost always be able to access your email through their webmail services, as well as use the credentials provided to set-up your email on your phone, a more common tool like Outlook, or connect it with your favourite webmail application like Gmail.

  1. Create a Mailbox

Now that you have a domain and an email service, the next step is to decide on a mailbox. Common formats are firstname@yourdomain.com, FirstnameLastname@yourdomain.com, or Firstinitial.LastInitial@yourdomain.com. We recommend avoiding names like, “info”, “contact”, or “jobs”. These are more likely to be caught in spam filters and should be reserved for aliases and forwarding.

Aliases do not have their own mailbox, but instead forward to other mailboxes. Create that “info” address by making an alias like info@yourdomain.com that forwards back to your main email address. It is easy to remember and provides a generic email address to put on a website. Or, an email sent to accounting@yourdomain.com may automatically go to a folder in your inbox and to your bookkeeper.

While aliases can be helpful, we caution their use because it gets confusing for both recruiters and yourself. A recruiter who saves your alias may miss your response when it comes from your primary inbox. Aliases are also a sure way to end up with 2 or 3 profiles in one job board or staffing agency’s database. Not only will a recruiter consider this sketchy, but it leaves you wondering why you got emailed three times from the same recruiter for the same job opportunity!

  1. Choose an Email Client

There are a number of options for choosing an email client, the program from where you will read and write emails. Most hosts provide a webmail service that you can use; however, they tend to be clunky and inconvenient to access. Instead, you can use credentials provided to set-up your email on your phone, a more common tool like Outlook, and/or connect it with your favourite webmail application like Gmail.

The fact is, if you’re skilled in your technology and a reputable IT contractor, no recruiter is going to turn you down based on your email address, even if it’s ridiculous. They will, however, judge your professionalism, even if subconsciously. When you’re in tight competition for a gig or negotiating your rate, that subtle detail will make a difference.

A Job Seeker’s Guide to Brand Building — How to get Started

Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

A Job Seeker's Guide to Brand Building -- How to get StartedChances are if you’re engaging in a career search, you’ve heard about the key role Personal Branding plays in landing you the job you want. A brand is your elevator speech. It is your career and unique value proposition shared in 30 seconds. It is how you want others to view you — hiring managers, colleagues, peers, friends.

For as important as it is, it can be daunting to figure out where to start to build a personal brand of your own. I recently reviewed many articles and sources on this topic which all suggest this basic framework or something similar to it. Answer these questions simply and read the result aloud. The result should be the beginning of your 30 second elevator speech that you can tweak before your next interview:

Step 1: State WHAT you are — your primary job role.

“I’m a visionary coding artist who connects bipeds to binary”.  No.

“I’m a career Business Analyst….” Yes.

Be specific on what your primary job role is — two words. Don’t come with a long list of your capabilities, just mention the one that aligns well with the job you are interviewing for. A hiring manager won’t want to hear how passionate you are about Management Consulting when she’s interviewing you for a Business Analyst position.

Step 2: Share WHO you enjoy helping.

“I can work with anybody, I like People!” No.

“…. and I’ve enjoyed success partnering with Fortune 500 companies….” Yes

Mention specific industries? Business groups? Methodologies? Keep it short and simple. This line captures an element of what makes you passionate about your job. When you say it, it should get you smiling, or at least give you a charming eye twinkle.

Step 3: Say HOW you make their life/work better.

“…to give individual teams the chance to collaborate and voice design ideas. Small design stories have made the biggest impact on my best projects.”

Step 4: Give PROOF that you are credible.

“I am a proud holder of my CBAP designation…”

Results? Rewards? Credentials? Pick one to mention here.

Step 5: Wrap it up and turn it over to the manager.

“I’m looking forward to hearing more about your project team and how I can help”

You’re expressing interest in the role (ie: I want to hear more) and giving the manager an opening to do some of the talking about his/her project team.

Just like consumers who line up to buy the newest phone, hiring managers are making an emotional buying decision when they select a candidate for hire. A personal brand is your ticket — your bridge to move beyond just the skills on your resume and connect with your leader on a more personal level. It gives you access to that emotional buying centre. Invest the time, build your brand, and be prepared to really impress someone in your next interview.

Other Tips:

PRACTICE — Sit in front of the mirror, make eye contact with yourself, and practice it until your branding pitch is second nature. Focus on making sure you get a little sparkle in your eye when you say it — that’s how you know it’s personal enough, and it will help you connect emotionally with a manager!

VALIDATE IT — Use the dinner party rule. If you shared your brand with a stranger at a party, can you get through it without sounding ridiculous? A brand is personal and central — if you feel silly saying it, the statement needs fixing. “I’m a visionary coding artist who connects bipeds to binary”.  No.

IF YOU ARE STILL STUCK – If you don’t know where to start, LinkedIn is like the “Amazon” of personal branding. You can shop, browse, and select something that works. The “Whos” in your industry — how have they branded themselves? Is there anything that works for you? Ask people you know and trust what your brand is — how might they describe you to a person you don’t know.

Does Calling Yourself a ‘Freelancer’ Hold You Back?

This post by Susan Johnston Taylor first appeared on the Freshbooks Blog on September 28th, 2016

Does Calling Yourself a ‘Freelancer’ Hold You Back? One of the perks of freelancing is choosing your own title. So, what exactly should you call yourself? A freelancer, an entrepreneur, a small business-owner, something else?

In my experience, solopreneurs who choose not to self-identify as freelancers tend to fall into one of two main camps. The first camp chooses some other title to post on social media, print on their business cards and use in their elevator pitch (for instance, “independent web developer,” “creative director for hire” or “entrepreneurial journalist”).

Or they set up a business (for instance, “Sam Smith Media, LLC” or “The Red Pen Unlimited”) officially or unofficially that de-emphasizes their solo status and allows them to call themselves the owner, CEO or similar. In that case, maybe they plan on eventually scaling up to include others or they want to give the impression of being a larger company so they can attract bigger clients.

Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of calling yourself a freelancer.

Advantages of the ‘Freelancer’ Title

Clarity

In certain circles, people will know immediately what you’re all about if you call yourself a freelance web designer or a freelance copywriter. They may not understand what you mean by a “web design ninja” or an “independent content marketing strategist.” That’s especially true of LinkedIn profiles. No client or employer searches LinkedIn for people with cutesy or creative titles like “copywriting maven” or “SEO guru,” so in that context, you’d want more a straightforward professional title that makes it clear what you do.

Camaraderie

Freelancers are a pretty rad tribe of free-thinking, creative people. Self-identifying as a freelancer means you’re part of that community and gives you the ability to tap into the collective wisdom of the tribe through online forums, in-person events and the like. Of course there are also forums and networking events for people who self-identify as solopreneurs or small business-owners, but freelancers tend to share some similarities that they may not share with the broader community of small business-owners who have brick and mortar locations or employees to manage.

Disadvantages of the ‘Freelancer’ Title

Lack of Respect

Alas, some clients just don’t respect freelancers. They may pay their freelancers late (or not at all) or email them at all hours of the day or night assuming the freelancer must have nothing better to do than wait at the client’s beck and call. Calling yourself something other than a freelancer could help establish yourself as a legitimate business entity deserving of greater respect.

Negative Associations

The term can have negative stereotypes for those who assume that a freelancer is someone who couldn’t hack it in the corporate world or who loafs around in pajamas watching daytime soap operas. For most freelancers that isn’t the case, but using a term other than freelancer could help bypass some of these misperceptions and position yourself as a bona fide professional.

Self-Perception

Aside from how others treat you, calling yourself a small business-owner or a solopreneur could also shape the way you think about your own work. If you view freelancing as a casual thing you do in between full-time jobs, you may not behave like a business or charge what you’re worth. But if you think of yourself as a business, then you’re more apt to get agreements in writing, send professional-looking invoices and take other steps that establish you as a business.

Possible Limitations

Some creative professionals grow from freelancing on their own to subcontracting work to others or even creating a virtual digital agency with multiple contractors or employees. If you see yourself as a digital agency of one, then that could create a smoother transition into a larger business in the future. Branding yourself as something other than a freelancer means you won’t have to rebrand when you decide to expand or change how you think about and describe your work. Of course, scaling up isn’t for everyone. Some freelancers are happy to remain a company of one.

Distancing Yourself from Your Work

Some solopreneurs choose to incorporate as a business to provide an extra layer of protection in case there’s a legal dispute around their work. Also, some freelancers define themselves by the success or failure of their work (an unhealthy, but all too common mindset). Using a business name other than your own name could also have the psychological benefit of reminding you that you are not interchangeable with your work.

In my case, I vary my word choice depending on the context. If I meet fellow freelancer, I’m apt to self-identify as a freelancer as well so that we can find common ground. If I’m hobnobbing with other solopreneurs, I might self-identify with that group. Ultimately, I think behaving like a business-owner is more important than what you call yourself.

About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter @UrbanMuseWriter.

 

100 Web Design Tools that Anyone Can Use (Infographic)

Personal branding should never be taken lightly by any IT professional. Depending on your region and your skill, there are often hundreds of other independent contractors out there who you compete against for work. You need to stand out to recruiters and employment agencies as their top choice and, when you interview with a recruiter or client, you need to leave the best impression. One element of personal branding that we’ve discussed throughout the Talent Development Centre is your online presence and, more specifically, creating a personal website.

To create the perfect personal brand for yourself as an independent IT contractor, you may want a specific look and feel on your website. Unless you’re a designer or find the perfect template, that exact image could be tricky to attain. Instead, have a look at this infographic from Illustrio which gives dozens of  helpful tools (some even free) that will help you design the perfect website.

100 Web Design Tools that Anyone Can Use (Infographic)

The Biggest Business Website Fails and How to Fix Them

This post by Susan Johnston Taylor was originally published on the Freshbooks Blog on July 19, 2016

The Biggest Business Website Fails and How to Fix ThemNowadays customers expect small businesses—everything from solo practitioners to mom and pop contracting companies—to have an online presence. With free and inexpensive tools available online, you don’t need to be a website wizard to set one up.

Despite the relative ease of setting up a website, there are several potential pitfalls that could turn away customers rather than draw them in—by “draw them in,” we mean drive business conversions from your mere online presence. Here’s a look at several business website faux pas, along with tips on how to fix them.

It’s Jargon-Heavy

Some businesses use very technical language or industry jargon to describe themselves and what they do. Avoid this temptation and keep the language as simple and digestible as possible. Instead of saying “We leverage industry-leading, best-in-class pest-mitigation techniques,” choose simpler language like “We’ll rid your home of ants, cockroaches and other pests.” The latter also focuses on the benefits the customer will enjoy: a pest-free home!

It has the Wrong Focus

Your website shouldn’t just trumpet your accomplishments and certifications; it should demonstrate how you can help your potential customers. Rather than focusing on your extensive list of credentials, focus on the people-aspect of your business.

What are their pain points? What unique benefits can you offer that will make their lives easier or better? How can you speak their language and show that you understand their needs?

It’s Missing a Call-to-Action

Don’t make site visitors guess what they should do next; give them clear instructions with an obvious call to action button or hyperlinked text. For instance, encourage them to download your free ebook, book a free consultation or contact you for more information. Without these prompts, your potential customers won’t be prompted to move forward with your services, and you won’t get the business conversions you’re looking for.

It’s Not Mobile-Friendly

The number of global mobile users now surpasses the number of desktop users, according to comScore. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on potential business. If you have animation, large images that contain text or a site navigation that isn’t responsive on mobile phones and tablets, that can frustrate potential customers. Particularly in today’s mobile-driven world, you should have a mobile-first approach when building your website.

It has a Confusing User-Experience

Your site’s navigation should make it easy for users to find what they need, whether it’s a list of services, business hours, staff bios or contact pages—all within a few intuitive clicks. If it’s too hard to contact you, they’ll be apt to look elsewhere and you can lose their business.

Consider including a contact page as part of your site’s primary navigation and posting your phone number in a prominent place on every single page (the footer of the web page is typically where your traffic will look to for site navigation). If you provide useful and accessible information, it can also reduce the number of phone calls asking for basics like business hours or whether you provide a certain service.

It has Looping Background Music

Websites that start playing music automatically (and non-stop) as soon as you load the page can annoy your customers. They may be browsing your site at work or another place where loud, unexpected music is disruptive. In addition, added features—like music—can lead to slower loading times throughout your website. So instead of using music to set the mood, visually capture your audience instead. Choose images, fonts and colors to illustrate your desired brand and vibe.

It has Poor Image Quality

Blurry or pixelated images scream amateur hour. Smartphone cameras have come a long way, but if you still can’t get high enough resolution images, consider investing the money in professional photography or at least locating some royalty-free stock images for your site. And if you decide to take your own photography, images taken on a smartphone are typically suitable enough for website quality.

It has a Hard-to-Read Typeface

You want your site’s text to be readable on desktop or mobile so visitors can easily gather the information they need. Dark text on a light background is generally easiest to read, while light text on a dark background can prove trickier. Colors can display differently on varying devices depending on their screen settings, so aim for contrast. Different shades of the same color (for instance, a light pink background with darker pink text) may not read as well. If your traffic is distracted by your font style and color from the get-go, they may not even give your services a chance.

It’s Visually Cluttered

Big blocks of text and lots of images can overwhelm website visitors and detract them from your content. Use subheadings and bullet points as appropriate to make your text more readable and easy-to-follow. Also, include white space to give your text and images room to breathe. White space around your call-to-actions can also help them stand out. Here are instructions on finding your site’s text/HTML ratio.

It has an Outdated Template

Make sure you update your website on a regular basis. If customers come to your site in April and you still have a banner ad for a holiday sale, it doesn’t leave the best first impression. Make a more positive impression by regularly updating your website and removing any time-sensitive promotions as appropriate.

Also, keep an eye out for broken links. If you link to a vendor who goes out of business or you change the navigation on your own site, ensure you remove old links so that visitors won’t be redirected to a 404 page.

By keeping your target customers’ needs in mind and providing a good online user experience, your website will make a strong impression for your business and will allow customers to look up your information anytime, anywhere.

About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter@UrbanMuseWriter.

Tips for Women in IT to Appear More Confident (Video)

There is no argument that female independent contractors working in technology face more challenges than their male counterparts. From the loneliness of being a minority to the proven pay gaps, IT is not an easy industry for women. There are many theories as to why this could be, none of which we’ll discuss in today’s post. Instead, we’re going to help minimize one challenge by sharing some advice to help female IT leaders improve their communication.

This helpful video we found from Forbes points out body language mistakes that some women make. Specifically, it provides four tips to help a female IT contractor appear more credible, powerful and confident, either when meeting with a recruiter, discussing business with a client, or leading a team through a project.

Never Say These 6 Words in an Interview (Video)

Independent IT contractors spend a lot of time in interviews — with clients, with recruiters, with end-users — and each of these interviews are often when you’ll set a first impression. Due to the high-pressure nature of them, especially job interviews, we tend to use vocabulary that comes easily and naturally to us. This is when words sneak into our sentences that affect how a listener perceives us.

It takes intensive practice and comfort to avoid all stutters and small miscommunications, but this video from BI Success suggests 6 words to start eliminating in your vocabulary which will make you sound smarter. This is not only great advice for job interviews, but also for your everyday professional life.

Enhance Your Personal Brand

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on October 30th, 2012

Personal BrandIt is not that many years ago that the term “Personal Brand” did not exist!  Back then we built a “reputation”, “beefed up our resume”, strove to be a “thought leader”, were careful of our “image” etc.  However I like the all encompassing description of Personal Brand!

What can YOU do to enhance your Personal Brand?

  1. Be a “thought leader” … share your knowledge.
  2. Invest in yourself … never stop learning.
  3. Learn … beyond your “technical area”.  Professionals who truly understand how their technical skill impacts the business are most in demand.
  4. Network … and not JUST people like you!
  5. Dress for success!
  6. Get involved in your community … charities, industry associations, kid’s sports etc.
  7. Love what you do … you have to do it anyway so get your head into loving it!
  8. Work hard … be known as someone who delivers!
  9. Be positive … hang with positive people, think positive thoughts.
  10. Be an interesting person … keep up with current affairs, have opinions, listen to others!

Its all about raising your profile, establishing a positive reputation and living up to it!

Build Your Reputation by Commenting Online

This post by Mark Swartz was originally featured on Monster’s Career Advice blog

Build Your Reputation by Commenting OnlineYou have knowledge to share and want to build your professional reputation. Except writing lengthy online posts isn’t your strong suit. So creating a blog probably isn’t right for you.

How then to share your insights and opinions in short bursts? Easy. By commenting on other people’s posts. It’s a dependable way to get your name out there.

Commenting could become an integral part of your career social media strategy. Find the right outlets and watch as your profile rises.

Reasons To Share Your Knowledge And Opinions Online

You may already have a social media routine for building your personal brand. Or you might just be getting started. Either way you should consider being a commenter.

By making brief, perceptive remarks, then attaching your name to all your posts, a variety of readers will come to associate you with interesting content. Your entries may be locatable by search engines. Plus along the way you’ll meet new online networking contacts.

Comments Should Be Concise

As a commenter, you’ll be responding to other people’s posts by adding your own take. Each entry you create could expand on the poster’s content or give your opinion on the subject.

Comments are usually short. Anywhere from a sentence to a paragraph is the norm. If you go longer than that on a regular basis, edit down (or maybe start a blog of your own).

Categories of Outlets For Commenting

There are two primary categories of outlets for posting comments. One is on blogs by other people, groups or organizations related to your field of specialty. The other is on similarly related discussion forums and message boards.

Blogs are periodical. Entries are published either every day, every couple of days, or less frequently. Normally they might attract several replies if any. The more popular blogs can get dozens of responses to new posts.

Discussion forums and message boards work another way. They allow people to create “discussion threads” based on particular topics. Sometimes no one contributes to a new thread. Or over 100 replies and a dozen sub-threads could get posted.

Where To Find Commenting Outlets

For blogs and forums/boards in your profession or industry, start with your industry or trade association. They usually provide space for commenting. However you often need to be a paid-up member of the organization to participate.

Don’t fret if you aren’t. Professional forums can be found on the big social media sites. Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, host “Groups” oriented to all kinds of professionals. Google and Yahoo host varied Groups as well. Joining is free. A group may be open to the public, or require joining first.

In addition there are search engines that track blogs and online discussions. Among the more popular ones are boardreader.com and omgili.com. Use them to locate outlets that have pertinent topics.

Some Do’s And Don’ts Of Commenting

Always keep in mind that what you write reflects on your personal brand. Also ask yourself this: do you hinder of help your company’s brand? Employers may see your comments and judge you accordingly.

Don’t rush in and post before you’ve surveyed the landscape. What style are other commenters adopting? How many words are they using when they reply?

Your Insights And Opinions Matter

You needn’t be a noted thought leader to comment. What readers look for is stimulating feedback. As long as you refrain from unnecessary controversy, and are adept at using Spellcheck, you can begin.

Commenting can help you get known as a Subject Matter Expert (SME). Why should this matter to you? Because when it comes to online job networking, employers consistently seek out SME’s!