Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: personal branding

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

The Importance of Certifications for IT Professionals

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

The Importance of Certifications for IT ProfessionalsI recently came across an article from Global Knowledge listing the 15 Top-Paying Certifications for 2016. It brings some very good discussion points to light.  Should we certify? What are the most marketable certifications?  What certifications look to have future relevance?  The article is especially useful as it ties a monetary figure to each certification.  Although many other variables exist in that figure, it gives us a good idea of the relevance and demand of the skill set and certification.

To certify or not to certify… that is the question

The answer in most cases is yes, yes, and yes.  This is true for both full-time IT professionals as well as independent contractors.

For independents contractors, the goal is for your consulting business is to be seen in the marketplace as a trusted partner.  Certifications go a long way in establishing credibility in your business offering. We hear the term “building your brand” often in today’s business environment.  Part of any strategy of building your brand is building trust in your capabilities through experience, references, and… certifications. Being current and up-to-date in your certifications shows that you, as an independent contractor, are aware of the current and relevant technologies, and that you are invested in being as up-to-date as possible in the ever changing marketplace.

For full-time resources, it is absolutely critical that prospective or current employers know that YOU are invested in your career and advancement of your skills. A mistake employees often make is that they are waiting or expecting their employer to initiate skill development, training and certification discussion.  While some employers do a better job than others with professional development, the onus is on YOU to initiate these discussions and formulate a strategy for development.

So which certification is right for you?

The answer to that question lies in your area of expertise, but the list in the article referenced above can surely help you see your best options. One certification that I did not see on the list, and perhaps it is because its popularity has been more recent, is that of a Certified Scrum Master.  Thousands of companies are moving to an Agile or Agile-based methodology and this certification becomes more valuable by the day.  For more information on the Scrum certification, have a look at Scrum Alliance and the Agile Advice blog.

Do you have any certifications or are you working towards one right now? Do you have any recommendations for a new IT contractor looking to improve their competitiveness? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

3 Key Phases of Building a Personal Brand

This article by Sarah Green original appeared on the .Me blog on October 16, 2015

3 Key Phases of Building a Personal BrandA brand can be anything, a single letter, a word, an idea, a symbol, a mix of colors, a sound, a name, a person. A brand can also be something that is not so clear and tangible, like respect and reputation. The latter may particularly relate to professionals, who aim to build a recognizable name for themselves in order to improve their career prospects and promote their skills.

If you feel you belong to this group, you need to understand the essences of brand building and the associated phases that translate into discovering, creating, and maintaining a successful personal brand.

  1. Discovering who you really are

The first phase of creating a personal brand is discovering who you are underneath (all the other brands you are wearing). In order to do that, you need to try and strip yourself of all subjectivity, put your ego on hold, and do a realistic self-assessment. The starting point of this process is indeed self-awareness. Even the ancient Chinese philosopher and poet, Lao Tze knew the importance of this:

At the center of your being you have the answer: you know who you are and you know what you want.

Try to delve into the deepest corners of your persona and uncover what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, and what truly motivates you to push forward. Put all these things on paper, connect the dots, and you’ll get the most honest picture of who you really are and which sides of you would help nudge your career in the right direction.

  1. Having a clear Vision of what your future Brand should be

Once you have rediscovered yourself, you need to organize your thoughts, plans and skills to create a clear picture, a vision, of what your brand should represent and how it will separate you from everyone else on the market. This phase is rather important as during this stage you need to realize what you can uniquely bring to the table and in what way your brand will stand out from the crowd. And the crowd is HUGE.

The flip side is realizing how exactly you want to be perceived by others. Remember, you are merely a creator of your brand, it is up to the others to make it happen. You need to create your own vision, that vision needs to turn into a mission, and finally, with a lot of hard work and a little help from Lady Luck, that mission will turn into a successful brand.

Of course, you also need a well-organized plan. This is when you will want to think both big and small picture, so make sure you create a long-term vision but also develop those little steps which will help you get there. According to Neil Patel and Aaron Agius, the authors of The Complete Guide to Building your Personal Brand:

The foundation of personal branding rests on authenticity, the ability to tap into your genuine, humble, and individual human qualities from which your identity, personality, and character stem.

Wise words coming from wise men.

  1. Go out there and stay Visible

The marketing phase of building your personal brand is crucial once its foundations have been set. Yet, maintaining a successful personal brand is perhaps even trickier and more difficult than creating one.

In order to stay in the spotlight you need to do everything in your power to increase your visibility in your given field. Make sure you continue to develop your brand by attending industry conferences and by participating in as many professional forums as you can. Grow. Start your own blog, choose a remarkable name for it and widen your professional network through writing articles or blogs about your skills and your expertise.

What steps have you taken to build your personal brand?  Share your experience in the comments below.

Freelancing 101: Professional Networking (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a post originally published by Justine Smith on the FreshBooks Blog August 19, 2015

Freelancing 101: Professional Networking Made Easy (Part 2)Imagine waking up one morning, checking your email and finding several new leads from interested prospects. Now, imagine experiencing that every morning.

How can this happen? Through the power of professional networking.

When you take the time to build a strong network, that investment will bring results. People start seeing you as an expert and will come to you for services, whether you’re a writer, designer or massage therapist.

But this only happens through successful networking. A strong strategy is a must for keeping you and your business top-of-mind when new opportunities arise.

In the article below, you’ll find a few no-hassle, professional networking tips for freelancers. Use them to build your network, acquire new business and establish yourself as the go-to authority. Let’s dive in…

Craft a Comprehensive Marketing Toolkit

This toolkit will serve as your go-to resource when you land new leads during networking events. It’s essentially a pre-packaged form of sales collateral. Keep some copies in the car or carry some on-hand to make sure you never find yourself without your toolkit when the moment to exchange information strikes.

Ok, so what goes in this pre-packaged marketing toolkit?

Good question. You’ll find an array of choices for printed marketing materials. Some of these include:

  • Business cards
  • Post cards
  • Flyers
  • Booklets
  • Brochures
  • Calendars
  • Greeting Cards
  • Stickers
  • Newsletters

As a freelancer, you can use one or all of these items to creatively promote your business. But for the purpose of this package, try to keep things simple.

Business Cards

This is a no-brainer. Every professional at a networking event will carry a handful of business cards. In fact, you should too, above and beyond the ones you include in your networking toolkit. Then, when someone needs your number, just hand over your business card and set up a time to chat.

But what if a prospect wants to learn more about what you offer? When this happens, it’s time to hand over a bit more information. Your business card is your foundation, but let’s add to it a bit…


In addition to the business card, include a brochure that highlights your services, capabilities and accomplishments. If you want, you can even take things a step further by offering a simple discount within the brochure.

When creating your brochure, keep these tips in mind:

  • Write to your target audience.
  • Share benefits, not just features.
  • Get a professional design.

Remember, you want to pass out this toolkit and let it do the selling for you. Do everything possible to create good, high-quality marketing materials.

One Miscellaneous Item

Round out your marketing toolkit with one of the materials left on the list above. This is a miscellaneous item by default, because different materials will work better or worse, depending on your industry.

For example, here are a few different ways you could use this third part of the package:

  • Music Teacher: Include a flyer that features an introductory discount for new students.
  • Writer: Use a newsletter to show off your writing skills.
  • Designer: Print a cool sticker that showcases your best design capabilities.

Once you have the package completed, it’s time to get out there and start building your professional network. Don’t be afraid – everybody gets nervous about networking, but preparation is the key. When you use this system, you’ll make the entire process as “no-hassle” as possible.

Share Your Success!

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Share Your Success!

I’m not sure if it’s because the world we live in spends so much time talking about the negative, but it occurs to me that this has rubbed off on a lot of us. We spend an inordinate amount of time in our personal or business lives apologizing and feeling bad about the things that have gone wrong. Maybe it’s because, as Canadians, it seems the default setting is to say “sorry,” even when we’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.

As an example, the staffing industry is full of rewards, but it can be challenging. When we work out problems between our clients and contractors, we end up being the middle player. Situations can get tense and we do what we have to do to make sure everybody is satisfied with the service received. The result of this can be a real beat down and if you are not careful, you’ll forget about all the good things you do or accomplish in a day. Everybody experiences these kinds of situations, regardless of their industry or profession, including independent contractors. So, if you’re feeling defeated and it seems like every negative day is followed by another one, I would like to suggest the following:

  1. At least once a day, by yourself or with your team, celebrate the hard work and victories accomplished. This is not excessive. At Eagle, we have a simple program set up where peers can recognize the great work that they do for each other on a daily basis. Talking about wins reinforces good practices and encourages continuous learning and improvement by hearing positive stories. We always hear about learning from your mistakes… how about the important lessons learned from your wins?
  2. Propagate those stories. As a sales person, this is a powerful tool I use to demonstrate to new or existing clients the good work my team is doing. When dealing with your existing clients, spend time during meetings to let them know the recent successes you’ve enjoyed while delivering service to their firm. Believe me — they will hear about everything that goes wrong so it is important that you make sure they hear about what is going right. And if there are things that have gone wrong, there is nothing embarrassing about talking about how a problem has been fixed and turned into a win.
  3. It’s not bragging! It’s that Canadian thing again. People prefer dealing with a professional who is positive and proud of their record. Think of your own experiences when you have had the chance to evaluate a product or service. It is so much better to speak with somebody who is confident and proud to tell you about their success and it in turn gives you greater confidence in the product or service you are buying.
  4. Finally, and most obviously, if you want to accentuate the positive, you have to walk the talk. You can’t make up success and if you want to tell good stories, you have to be committed to creating them.

Whether we like it or not, bad things happen but let’s not forget, nor forget to celebrate all the good things that we accomplish in a day. Hopefully that will help put a smile on your face and that alone will make your day a better one.

Freelancing 101: Professional Networking Made Easy

This is Part 1 of a post originally published by Justine Smith on the FreshBooks Blog August 19, 2015

img_professional-networking-made-easyImagine waking up one morning, checking your email and finding several new leads from interested prospects. Now, imagine experiencing that every morning.

How can this happen? Through the power of professional networking.

When you take the time to build a strong network, that investment will bring results. People start seeing you as an expert and will come to you for services, whether you’re a writer, designer or massage therapist.

But this only happens through successful networking. A strong strategy is a must for keeping you and your business top-of-mind when new opportunities arise.

In the article below, you’ll find a few no-hassle, professional networking tips for freelancers. Use them to build your network, acquire new business and establish yourself as the go-to authority. Let’s dive in…

Identify Networking Opportunities

For the sake of this article, I’m going to discuss in-person networking opportunities. Generally speaking, this is where most freelancers struggle. My personal experience has taught that many (if not most) of my freelancing peers are introverts.

That makes in-person networking a bit of a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are a couple different methods I use to identify local networking events:


Spending hours working alone in a home office can make it difficult to get outside and forge profitable business connections. That’s why places like Meetup.com often become an integral part of freelancers’ networking strategies.

Meetup’s website outlines their basic mission within the community, saying:

“Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.”

As a freelance professional, you’ll quickly learn (if you haven’t already) that profitable things come from strong networks. Meetup can help you build the connections that will ultimately support your business’s growth.

I’ve used these steps to find the perfect meetup groups:

  1. Look through the top level categories. Sign in and click the search bar on the home screen. It’ll pull in several basic categories (e.g. Career & Business, Fitness, Music, etc.). Choose the one relevant to your industry.
  2. Narrow down your meetups through industry-related keywords. For example, let’s say I’m looking to offer my freelance services to marketers. I’d go to the “Career & Business” category and try the following search phrases.
    1. Marketing / Marketer (i.e. my target market)
    2. SEO / Content Marketing / Adwords (i.e. services my market offers)
    3. Small Business Owner / Entrepreneur (i.e. my target market’s target market)

Those two steps should give you plenty of options for relevant meetups.


If Meetup doesn’t feature many events in your area, there’s another option: Google your way into your next local networking group or event. A few simple search queries can bring up great results, especially around larger cities.

Get started with these basic searches:

  • “yourcity business networking”
  • “yourcity networking events”
  • “yourcity networking groups”

Some of these events will have their own web pages or use a platform other than Meetup.com. Another quick Google search should reveal which of these events are most relevant for you to attend.

Create a Schedule at the Beginning of the Month

Once you’ve identified ideal opportunities in your area, it’s time to set priorities. After all, you can’t spend all month networking and no time actually doing the work your clients are paying for.

At the beginning of each month, look at all the possible events you’d like to attend and create a schedule based on your expected workload.

Write it Down

Grab a pencil, open your calendar and start writing in events. Ultimately, this action requires you to make a small commitment to attend. But remember – the less hassle, the better.

Don’t try to remember all the dates or rely on weekly digests from Meetup.com. Either something will come up or the event won’t seem that important in the moment (or, worse, you’ll forget about it altogether).

As a freelancer, we have dozens of responsibilities. I can’t use up all my brain’s bandwidth trying to remember these events. So, I write it down. And I always end up feeling thankful that I did.

Go Ahead and Pay for It

If there’s a fee to attend the events you’re sure you want to participate in, go ahead and pay it. What better way is there to ensure you’ll go than to financially invest in the event? Putting money down on something creates a loss if you decide not to show up. And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy losing – especially when it comes to money.

Even if the event doesn’t ask for a fee, find other ways to commit financially. If you’re afraid you’ll back out, give $20 to a friend and tell them that they can only give it back after you attend the event. Get creative with it. Remember, the goal here is to make going to networking events a no-brainer.

Don’t Overbook Yourself

Don’t get too overzealous – you’ll get overwhelmed by all the events and stall out. Instead, start with no more than 1 event each week. This amount keeps it reasonable without feeling stressful or getting too expensive.

And make sure not to overbook yourself. I’ve been too overzealous about networking in the past and it can become detrimental to business. You never want to neglect your current workload or clients for new business. That kinda defeats the purpose.

How To Create Your Personal Brand (Video)

Your personal brand plays an important role in your business.  A positive brand means you’re not only likely to win a contract, but your network will also refer you for contracts and you’ll be sought out by clients.  In this video, Colin Boyd provides three key drivers to your personal brand along with tips on how to use them. Are you happy with your current brand?

Core Values for the Independent Contractor

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Eagle's Core ValuesAs an employee of EAGLE, I’ve spent a fair bit of time looking at posters, placards and marketing pieces that talk about our Core Values.  INNOVATION, INTEGRITY, EXCELLENCE, TEAM make up the four pillars of our organization and I like them for their simplicity yet powerful statement.  And they really do fit with what we try to achieve on a day to day basis at EAGLE.

Recently, I started thinking about the folks we work with, the independent contractor community.   I wondered if having struck out on their own whether they felt the need or desire to develop their own list of core values as key principles to how they would operate their business and careers.  So I asked a number of senior level contractors who had been self-employed for a long time and almost universally, I received the same answer from each of them.  “I’m one person so I don’t need to worry about how other people act, I just worry about myself”.

I understand their view but the more I think about it, the reasons for having a set of core values seem obvious.  Here’s why developing your own company core values, even if you are a company of one, is an excellent investment to make.

  1. Improved decision-making: The business world is complex and decisions are rarely cut and dried. Core values can act as a test and improve the speed by which you make a decision.  Ask yourself, “If I do X, does that reflect the core values that I’ve decided are paramount to my success”?
  2. Consistency: It’s hard to be consistent and as stated above, there is often a whole lot of grey between the black and white. But it’s amazing how core values over time become not just words but guiding principles to how you make decisions and consistency flows from that increased certainty.
  3. Success: Core Values help define a path, your preferred future and by implementing them, you are consciously putting together a complete game plan to ensure you are on the road to success.
  4. Evaluation: Things don’t always go as planned and sometimes you need to look back and see where things didn’t go quite right. Core values again act as a test against which to evaluate your decisions.  And yes, the unexpected does happen, but it is amazing how often when we truly look back, we identify where we took the wrong fork in the road.

Core values are not just a large corporation thing and regardless of the size of your enterprise, can be great tool for helping guide your career and differentiate your approach . As Mahatma Ghandi said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.

The Power of the Relationship

Lisa Murray By Lisa Murray,
Director of Marketing at Eagle

Business handshake.When looking for any kind of service or expertise these days, my first stop is the computer.  Depending on the problem, I look for a variety of common themes including: best price, best value, expertise, great reviews.

In the contracting world, things are not quite as simple or straight forward.  Often when a client hits a wall, how do they find you?  Generally, they want the best person to solve their problem and you are not simply a click away.

Often clients will work with agencies where they have an existing relationship.  They will work with the agency representative to define the problem and describe the type of resource that they need that can deliver a solution.  The agency representative will take this information and begin their search.  But where do they start?  An agency will always start with who they know. Their ‘go-to’ list will be resources that they have met, that they have had experience with and/or that they have gotten to know.

So how do you get yourself on this list?

  • Never turn down the opportunity to meet – from having a coffee at the local coffee shop or going into the office for an interview – these are all opportunities to build your relationship.
  • Always take advantage of networking events.  Many agencies host networking events and these are great opportunities to get to know people in your industry and the people that can help you get your next contract.  If you are uncomfortable at these types of events, read some of our articles on networking and practice!  A time investment in these events will pay off in the end.
  • Respond to every interaction, whether it’s via email or a phone message, acknowledge the message.  Even though you may not be available, a positive interaction is always memorable.
  • Offer your assistance. You may not be available for a particular contract but you might know someone that is.  Being the contractor that offers up an alternate resource will automatically put you at the top of the list any time a job matching your skills comes through the door.  This is a great place to be and pays off when you are looking.  In addition, most agencies offer a referral bonus so you might even get some compensation for your referral!
  • As you get to know the key people that sell your talent, you may find yourself in an advisor position.  After all, they are great sales people but don’t necessarily understand the tech talk.  If you have positioned yourself as an expert in your field, you may be called upon to help define the right resource for a client problem.  This is advantageous at so many levels even if you can’t take on the work yourself from extending your own network to positioning yourself as an expert with a client.  A client will absolutely keep you in mind the next time something comes around and may even put the project on hold until you are available.

Taking a long-term view and investing in your relationships will ensure that you are never out of work.  How do you invest in your relationships?  Leave a comment below.

Without Personal Branding Your Career Is Dead

Personal branding is an important practice for all independent contractors.  It’s a major contributor to what kind of contracts you get and with which clients.  This infographic from Communicate [your] Skills has a similar point-of-view and provides tips about why you should be a brand, how to develop your personal brand, and what personal branding can do you for your career.  Check it out and act like a brand today!

Infographic: Without Personal Branding Your Career is Dead