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Management

Personal Branding Tips for Graduates

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In this post, I will provide tips I have learned on personal branding which may be beneficial for graduates looking to “market” themselves into their dream job.

Young people entering the workplace today have far better tools and communication channels at hand then previous generations could ever imagine. Social media and the Internet provide all of us with the ability to connect with millions of people all over the world. However, we all know it’s a double-edge sword, allowing bullying and trolling 24/7, but for this post I am focusing only on the positives of the technologies we have available to us for personal branding.

First off, what is personal branding and why is it important for your career.

Personal branding is all about presenting yourself to the world in the way you want to be seen. You do this to help achieve your goals such as landing the dream role, increasing your earning potential and being thought of as a leader or influencer in your skill-sets.

Graduates are faced with more and more challenges in landing a job, let alone their dream job. Globalization and immigration policies have dramatically increased the number of available candidates per role. Success ultimately comes to those who know how to market themselves above and beyond the competition.

I have broken this post into 4 key sections:

  • Selecting a “home base” online to establish yourself and help grow your personal brand.
  • The importance of networking and connecting – not only online but face-to-face.
  • Content curation as a strategy for being recognized as someone to follow online.
  • Writing your own content to start on the path of being known as an expert.

So, let’s begin!

Choose Your Social Media Platforms Wisely

I think anyone who has invested their time and effort in building and growing a social media profile for business will know it’s never ending and massively time consuming.

For developing your personal brand, it’s even more important that you select the social media platforms that are right for you. It’s a complete waste of time investing all that time and effort building up a social media profile on a platform that will serve you no benefit to your career.

LinkedIn is the social media platform I invest most of my time and effort in for building on my personal brand. All the other social media platforms, some of which I must admit, I am too old to even understand, are not even on my radar. The only other social media platform I invest a little time in is Twitter but solely for content curation (see Content Curation section).

I focus on not polluting my personal social media profiles such as Facebook with business and vice versa. For me, LinkedIn and Twitter are for business and every other platform is for personal use.

Of course, LinkedIn is the number one social media platform for business. If you have not yet created a LinkedIn profile for yourself I suggest you do so ASAP. LinkedIn is the main tool people use to research people and businesses – recruiters will contact me via LinkedIn after reviewing my profile, clients connect with me as well as workmates.

As a graduate your first task on the road to personal branding is to establish a “home base” where people can go to get a complete run down on who you are and what skills you have. The home base should be your CV online. Some people recommend that you to establish a personal blog as the home base either as a static CV or a place to post your content. Personally, I don’t recommend a blog as the initial home base for a number of reasons:

  1. Maintaining a blog can be time-consuming, taking you away from your core objective of brand building. If the blog is hosted on a blogging platform then that adds further complexity in regards to SEO and migrating away from the platform.
  2. Unless you can register the domain name for your full name then there will be additional work required for SEO to help locate your website. Search engines especially Google rank highly personal social media profiles before any other domain where you keep a personal profile. If you are lucky enough to register the domain for your full name I would initially have it redirect to your LinkedIn profile. For example, MarcKrisjanous.com.
  3. Your home base should be where your target “market” is – your target market being people you want to connect with. You would not set up a shop where your target market is not present and it’s the same online. LinkedIn is one of the first places online where people go to conduct research on a person or business – that’s where your home base should be.
  4. Your LinkedIn profile not only represents your online CV but also records the groups you belong to, recommendations from others, information about your connections and your recent activity within LinkedIn. It provides an almost complete picture of your professional life on one page. To replicate this functionality on a blog or another non-social media platform would be difficult.

Networking & Connecting

Once you have established your home base within LinkedIn locate all your student friends and connect with them. Also, connect with all your old lecturers as well because you will then be indirectly connected to their networks which instantly gives you some profiles to look at and possibly connect to (see warning below).

Warning!! Do not randomly connect with people you do not know directly on LinkedIn! Attempting to connect with strangers or someone that does not share common interests is one of the worst things you can do on LinkedIn. If one of your direct connections connects with a person you either know or feel they share a common interest then connect – but make sure in your connection request you explain exactly why you want to connect with them.

The reason why you are connecting with people on LinkedIn is to firstly start networking but also it helps with “social proof” – a term used to denote your networking strength. Think of it this way – people by their very nature tend to be more positive towards someone who is seen to be popular. I will leave it at that because I do not want to distract focus and encourage debate on the pros and cons of “social proof”.

After you have connected with people you know on LinkedIn search for LinkedIn groups that cover your interests including skill-sets, then request to join the group. For example, if marketing is your career path then search for marketing groups, if its IT security then join up to IT security groups.

The most important rule when joining a LinkedIn group or any online community for that matter is to first watch and learn. Don’t bother contributing to the group yet. You should first understand the attitude of the group and the key players. You need to understand the “culture” of the group in order to know what is acceptable to contribute and what is not. As a newbie, you don’t want to upset anyone or be laughed at. Once you have identified the key players in the group introduce yourself and confirm with them the rules for the group. This help show that you are respectful of the groups culture and hopefully one or more of the key players in the group will look after you until you are accepted.

Connecting with people online is an important part of personal brand building however, what really cements a relationship is connecting face-to-face.

Ask your workmates and other peers what professional groups are around that you can join to network with people and learn further. Make sure you commit to attending the meetings and don’t be scared to say hello to the attendees.

Conferences and expos are also a fantastic way to meet people not only the locals but people from further afield. Conferences and expos have industry leading speakers so make sure you introduce yourself at the end of their presentation and then attempt to connect with them via LinkedIn.

Important Tip!! When requesting to connect to someone within LinkedIn, make sure you add a note to the connect request such as how you know the person or why you would like to connect with them. Do not, ever, attempt to connect with someone within LinkedIn without providing a personal note in the connection request. Many influencers will ignore the default connection requests since they receive so many – make it personal and memorable.

Content Curation

Content curation is a newish marketing term, though what it involves has been around forever. The results of the effort are “magical” in the way compound interest works for financial growth – it’s a slow process but overtime the results can be exponential.

For example, my personal Twitter profile is currently at 12.6k followers at the time of writing this post – 95% due to content curation.

Content curation is about locating content that would be of interest to your network and sharing it with them so they may get value from it. The content you locate and share should be from various sources not just you. The content should be of a high standard and from reputable sources.

You can share your own content but I have a rule of a 1-to-19 split, meaning each piece of content I authored and shared with my network I share 19 other pieces of content I did not author. This removes any chance of being thought of by your network as purely self-promoting.

Now, you may feel that content curation appears to be a fantastic way to promote others but ultimately does nothing to help promote your own personal brand – but you would be wrong.

This is where the “magic” really kicks in.

Sharing content created by others has amazing benefits to your personal brand such as:

  1. Sharing content that will provide value to your network overtime has a magical effect where people believe you to be an expert on the topics you share. You may never write a single post in your life but sharing well written and high value content authored by others still makes you out to be an expert!
  2. Most people have at times attempted to contact influential or famous people directly only to have no response. This is where the “magic” of sharing another person’s content starts to work! If the person you are trying to connect with authors content such as blog posts, articles, videos etc… share their content with your network and make sure they are aware of the share. Most social media platforms make it easy for the author to be alerted to the share. Alerting the author of the share has two benefits for you: (1) the author is now aware of you and (2) most of us who receive a favor feel compelled to return the favor at some stage. The action of sharing an author’s post is in my opinion the easiest and most effective way of getting a person to notice you and most of the time, results in a favor to be returned. It may take a few or many shares but ultimately, I have found the sharing strategy works 99% of the time.
  3. Though I do recommend, as part of your personal branding, writing on topics you want to be known as having skills in, you don’t have to. Just sharing other people’s content puts you above most people within social media who are mostly watchers not active participants. One of the major success factors for being known in social media is to be active by contributing to the content stream – sharing content makes you an active participant, and therefore as a direct result, people will notice you.

How to find content to share

One easy strategy for content curation, is to locate influencers within your area of focus and re-share whatever they share that you think would be relevant to your network. Not only does this save you time locating content but it also helps you getting noticed by the influencer.

However, to really ignite the magic of content curation you will need to start seeking out content to share yourself.

Finding content to share online that is of high quality and provides value to your network is not hard – it’s just a matter of finding one useful initial source of content. Overtime that initial source will lead you to other sources of great content.

If you’re stuck locating a website for content try News360.com. The website provides a free service where you can sign-up and select categories of interest. News360 will then locate and display content related to your selected interest categories. The content is sourced from thousands of websites. I have used News360 for years and have located some interesting content and websites through this service. As usual, there is a mobile app, so when you have some free time, maybe while traveling to and from work, browse the latest content News360 has located and if something looks interesting share it with your LinkedIn network.

As a final tip, don’t spam your network with too much content. My rule is to share daily 1-3 pieces of content that is of high interest and value to my network. Therefore, my network knows that when I do share something its worth their while to take a look.

Writing Your Own Content

In my opinion, the most effective way to build your personal brand is to write about topics within your skill-set. There are so many benefits to writing content on a topic that I could write another post solely on that subject.

Writing content to promote a person, business or brand is called “content marketing” and at the time of writing this post it’s a massive focus for the marketing sector. Search for “content marketing” to learn more about the strategies used.

Here are some of the most important benefits:

  1. As a graduate, writing about a topic that is part of your professional skill-set forces you to learn more about the topic and to fill in the gaps of knowledge you have. For example, if you’re focused on marketing as a career, create a list of topics you are interested in and commit to writing a post on each topic. The fact that you will end up publishing the content on the Internet to be read by people with far more knowledge and experience than you, should force you to make sure you have researched thoroughly that your content is correct and based on facts.
  2. Building up a collection of content covering your skill-set and publishing on applicable websites and social media platforms such as LinkedIn super-charges your CV. Your content is proof that you actually know something. Don’t forget, most CV’s are embellished to a certain degree – most recruiters and future employers know that a person’s CV conveys how the person wants to be seen – not what they truly are or know. Your content is proof that what you state in your CV is true.
  3. When you have enough content, you can package the whole lot up and create an eBook that other graduates can read and get value from. The eBook is a major marketing tool for you – its pure power for your personal brand! You will be surprised where the eBook will end up – in the hands of influencers, recruiters, future employers, conference management teams looking for speakers. Oh, and now you are also a publisher – another skill to add to your LinkedIn profile and CV! Then of course there is repurposing your content into different channels but I will leave that up to you to discover.

Get Started – Now!

This post provides a small collection of tips I have learned throughout my professional career to help build my professional brand. As a graduate you are just starting out in your career but it’s never too early to start thinking about your professional brand. Finding a job is not as easy as it used to be, we all know that, so learning how you can promote yourself above the competition is an absolute must.

So, the steps are:

  1. Establish a “home base” on a social media platform where people can find you – I recommend LinkedIn.
  2. Start to get recognized, firstly by connecting with peers and influencers in your professional sector both online and face-to-face.
  3. Share high value content with your network, that starts you on the path to being recognized as someone who is passionate and keen to learn.
  4. Create your own content and share with your network to start on the path as being known as an expert.
  5. Continue to promote yourself – but also promote others you feel have given you value, as people will often return the favor.

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Management

4 Tasks That Your Business Should Outsource

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With every period of business growth, there is more to do. Often a growth spurt can take a business owner by surprise and leave them with too much to do, and not enough time to do it.

Existing personnel are expected to take on tasks and responsibilities outside their comfort zone, and maybe you too need to upskill in areas you’ve got little hands-on experience, just to get the job done. What a recipe for ‘mountains of stress’!

Almost half of all entrepreneurs are taking too much on, and Gallup Wellbeing Index says it the women who are reporting their stress more than men. Hence, it’s hard to say which gender is better at delegation.

While there’s no single solution, mainly if the growth spurt is unpredictable, outsourcing tasks to third parties can lessen the strain on management. You may not need to use third party providers and being locked into lengthy service contracts instead look at a more flexible workforce.

Delegating appropriate tasks to freelancers or external teams allows you to focus on doing what you do best – and what makes you happy. This is leadership.

Managing everything in-house is unrealistic for most businesses today. However, some tasks require your special touch. It’s those that are too tedious, complicated or expensive that you’ll benefit from outsourcing. Here are four such functions.

Marketing

There are several reasons to outsource marketing. Working with the right agency can give you a fresh perspective that’s backed up by professional insight. It will also be easier to scale up your efforts, not to mention lower overhead expenses.

Moreover, you can gain access to the latest technologies to improve efficiency and achieve more significant results, and this is especially valuable for smaller businesses that aren’t familiar with current digital trends in marketing. You can gain a significant competitive advantage by implementing a digital strategy that’s developed by experts.

Admin

In a whitepaper by Harris Poll, staff spend an average of 40% of their day handling administrative tasks. Most of it involves repetitive, menial activities that can be done by someone else for a fraction of the price. This includes data entry, document management, travel arrangements, inbox organization and proofreading.

Thanks to websites like Upwork, Fiverr and Guru, you can easily find a freelancer to do these things for you. The key is to pick someone who you can rely on to do the job right. This guide details where to start in the selection process.

Legal

As you may be aware, in-house lawyers aren’t cheap. But if you want the peace of mind that comes with knowing your business is compliant with all relevant rules and regulations, you need to have access to legal expertise. This can spare you the (much higher) cost of running into a lawsuit or another unforeseen legal issue.

These days, you can access legal services through online marketplaces like Avvo and UpCounsel, while Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom provide legal documentation

Human Resources

Every new employee increases your human resource responsibilities exponentially, so it’s a good idea to consider hiring outside help. Plus, several risks come with being unable to keep up with the demands of human resources, such as failing to make payments and file documents on time, not to mention hiring the wrong employees.

Outsourcing to a provider can ease the load and reduce your risk. Depending on your circumstances, you might not need to ship off everything. For example, a payroll company can process compensation while you handle the rest.

Conclusion

Businesses need to be more nimble to survive recessions and staff up when business demands it. Also, make sure you’re not overloading yourself with mundane jobs. Think carefully about the tasks that take up most of your time and outsource some jobs.

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Finance

5 Ways Your Business Can Slash Expenses Now

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When you feel the time has come to slash business expenses to reduce overheads, then there are plenty of different approaches to achieve this goal. Needless to say, when there’s been too little attention on spending less up until now, they’ll be greater opportunities for savings. However, don’t despair – there are always a few ways to make it happen.

Here are five ways that your business can save money.

1. Purchase Recycled Office Furniture

Whether you’re wanting to replace tired desks or chairs that are now proving unstable or a new office is being equipped, it’s necessary to set the office up with what the staff needs.

While companies often only look at buying new furnishings, there is another option, and that’s used office furniture, including workstations, chairs, desks, tables. Near new workstations, for example, are a good purchase for startups with a limited budget. With more than half of all new businesses going to the wall every year, many of these companies sell off their office equipment and chattels making it a far more affordable option for businesses keen to improve their carbon footprint. Used office furniture from reputable suppliers is high-quality and often comes with a warranty.

2. Optimise the Marketing Plan

Instead of marketing across many different channels and seeing varying results with each one, try narrowing the marketing strategy down. Examine the results to determine which channels and marketing campaigns have delivered the most customers at the lowest customer acquisition cost. In case that’s unclear, the customer acquisition cost is based on the average amount that it was necessary to spend to secure one new customer.

Once you know this information, it’s possible to tweak advertising plans to only spend on the most profitable campaigns from a customer acquisition standpoint. This optimises the current marketing approach to reduce the total marketing spend while delivering the same results.

3. Reduce Recruitment Costs

Look for ideas that will cut down on recruitment costs.
For instance, ask existing outperforming staff for a recommendation of a friend or colleague who might be interested in joining the company. Also, see if there’s anyone that you’ve been impressed with who could be invited to come on board.

When you’re using recruitment consultants, get the best deal in terms of what they charge. Check around on different job boards for the industry and other alternatives. See if you can do some of the recruitment work in-house to avoid the often-extortionate recruitment fees by putting in a bit of legwork.

4. Improve Systems and Limit Staff Meetings

Most workers aren’t that productive. Repeatedly, research has shown that office workers tend to grind for half the day and lose the other half to inefficient processes and procedures, overly long meetings, excessive breaktimes, gossiping, using social media and the internet, and more.

Breakdown each role so that there are systems and processes to follow. Remove all redundant steps to cut out the time-wasting elements. Also, have the staff members suggest better ways to get their work done, which often results in time savings there too. With meetings, go in with a plan, stick to it, set a time limit on the meeting, and get everyone back to work right after.

5. Be Greener

Use green technologies and ideas to save money on energy expenses.
Look at everything from energy-efficient light bulbs, dropping PCs down from performance modes to lower energy ones, and turn off what’s not being used all the time. Ask the staff for their suggestions on other ways that the company can be greener – employees often have amazing ideas in this area that can be implemented quickly.
There are a good many ways to save money as a business. Thankfully, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary to operate like a Scrooge either.

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Management

How Agile Training Can Improve Project Performance

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Project management is a complex practice that requires the many stages of planning, execution, monitoring, and others. Usually, you work with a planned set of activities that are completed in a rigid sequence, with little to no room for changes. The ultimate goal is to achieve a particular result within a specific time while considering constraints.

Over the years, the agile methodology has become more popularly used in organizations. The approach has proven to be effective in improving project performance and responding to market dynamics compared to traditional forms of project management. However, given the differences between agile and traditional styles, agile training is crucial to making the shift in management practice.

Agile is About Increment and Iteration

Agile is essentially a mindset or framework that you can adopt in your organization’s projects. It is about breaking down work into smaller and more manageable pieces called user stories that are delivered in repeated cycles called iterations.

The rationale of the approach is to have shorter cycles so that you can continuously respond to changes and adapt to them rather than trying to deliver everything in one go at the end.

As its name implies, agile refers to being able to move quickly, especially in today’s volatile market. With such an approach, you can measure performance at the end of each cycle, so you immediately know how consumers respond. Although agile was initially targeted at software development, it has, over time, emerged as a global strategy that can be used in any organization.

Benefits of Agile Methodology

Nowadays, managers are embracing the agile methodology because the short iterations help lower risk and take action at the early stages. With an agile approach, you can expect to get a higher product quality since you are frequently testing it during the development stage. Since agile is flexible, you can make adjustments and developments incrementally to improve your product.

The agile method can also help you increase customer satisfaction since you can respond to dynamic and changing needs in the market. Likewise, being able to deliver products to the market quicker will merit positive reception from the consumers. Another benefit of adopting the agile approach is that the fast iterations will help you generate quicker returns on investment (ROI).

Agile Training is Critical

To successfully adopt the agile methodology, getting agile training is crucial. In the agile approach, collaboration among team members is critical, so ensuring that each member is well-versed with the strategy will help maximize its benefits. You have to train your team to be consumer-focused so that you are always addressing needs.

There are many agile training frameworks existing today, with one of the most popular ones being Scrum. The Scrum team typically consists of a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and developers.

The Scrum Master leads the team and ensures that the development team is effectively fulfilling its goals. The Product Owner then makes decisions for the projects, which include writing the user stories. Finally, the developers create the software and conduct continuous testing throughout cycles.

With the popularity of the agile approach today, you will find several training courses available to get you started. Courses typically tackle different project life cycle frameworks, essential agile values and principles, and the roles of each team member. Once you complete your training, you will become a certified practitioner, something that will surely give you an edge in the workplace.

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