A New Year means a new opportunity to reexamine and refresh one’s life both professionally and personally. One of the most important professional questions you can ask of yourself and your company or brand is ‘Is my messaging on track?’ Because how you convey what you do and what you share with others is everything. Getting it right not only can have positive business influence, it is also instrumental in keeping you focused on your core competencies and values. Some people excel at telling their story, most of us need help. Plus as you evolve so should your narrative. Maybe you’ve changed jobs. Or are looking to. Or as a woman, you’ve taken time off to be a mom or help care for someone in your family and you want to get back into the workplace. Or you’re like me and haven’t paid enough attention to important business vehicles like your LinkedIn profile.
Personal branding and career consultant Katie Fogarty can help you get on the right track. While Katie works on multiple levels of branding for businesses and entrepreneurs, one area of her expertise is creating a dynamic LinkedIn profile, which is becoming an imperative part of networking and business development. Getting your LinkedIn profile polished and the clarity a good one provides can have trickle-down benefits that filter into other aspects of your life. Of course, my LinkedIn pre-interview was embarrassingly bad, and is still a WIP (Katie and I are going to tackle it in-depth together soon). What can you do to tell your best story? Read on.
And, if you want a deep dive with a serious luxury twist, Katie has teamed up with an expert chef/Abruzzo Italy expert to create a week retreat in Italy next fall at an Abruzzi castello. Specifically designed for creative and professional women, it includes branding workshops, cooking and exploring the region. And….she has offered Flair readers $300 off the trip fee by using the code “FlairFriends” at checkout. Sounds like heaven.
I’m so thrilled to talk with you now, because I feel at the beginning of the year many of us (myself included) want to reassess career-wise what we’re doing, where we’re going and how we can do it better and a key component of that is sharing the right message. I think you’re smart to focus on this in the New Year, because people in January are shot out of a cannon. They’re ready for all those things they’ve been meaning to get to that they haven’t done. Looking at their career and assessing it is usually top of the list. People are either really excited about the end of the break and going back to work or they’re dreading it. If they’re dreading it, it’s time to say, ‘Am I in the right role? What should I be doing so that Monday doesn’t feel like a total drag?’
So true. Tell me what you do. I run a personal branding and career consultancy called ReBoot and I help clients create powerful professional identities. I do that in a couple of different ways. I do one-on-one engagements called LinkedIn ReBoot, and then I also do ReBoot for Business, where I help small businesses with their professional messaging.
At the heart of what I do is I help people share their professional value. Too often people say what they do or what they’ve done in the past and they don’t share effectively the value that they offer to a person today. If you want to capture the attention of a hiring manager or grow your network, walk into a job interview and land it, you need to be able to quickly and easily share your professional value.
Talk a little bit about your background and how you got into this. It was very serendipitous. I’ve had a 20-year career in communications and have a master’s in Broadcast Journalism. I used to write the morning news in New York for NY1. I worked for CNN Financial News, and I’ve worked for big and small PR firms. I worked for Edelman Public Relations, and I worked for a boutique firm in New York.
I’ve been creating messaging for organizations and clients for a number of years, and a woman that I worked with–I created marketing materials for her–called me up in a panic one day because the editor of Forbes.com had looked at her LinkedIn profile, and she was embarrassed. She had really neglected it. So she said, ‘Would you help me with this?’
I did. She recommended me to a friend. It really kind of just took off. I had a lot of people reach out to me very organically, and I decided I really loved this line of work. It reminded me a little bit of journalism, where you would connect with a person and really try to suss out the interesting part of the story.
I love doing that with people. I’m curious about people, I’m curious about their work. I have a total knack for identifying what’s interesting and compelling about a person’s story and then I help bring it to the forefront.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when they’re either sharing their story or putting together their profile? The biggest mistake that people make is that they kind of phone it in and don’t take their messaging seriously. A lot of the work I do is on LinkedIn, but it also goes beyond LinkedIn. You can take this messaging and use it for your professional bio, your pitch deck, your website. You can use the language and the thinking in a job interview or even in a social conversation, when you’re just telling people what you do.
I think that people don’t take the time to think about how to market themselves, because marketing or selling oneself feels too calculating. So they don’t take the time to actually understand that they need to control the messaging and how they share their professional value. A lot of people just cut and paste their resume into LinkedIn and call it a day. They hope that when they hand their resume to somebody or they share their job title that whoever’s on the receiving end will be able to discern their value.
That’s a mistake. People are really busy. Hiring managers are busy. Recruiters are busy. Prospective clients are busy. If you take the time to shape the messaging, you’re going to be more successful. But I find that people just neglect to do that. They’re busy. They’re busy running their day jobs.
Do you think women also approach it differently than men? That’s a really good and interesting question, and I have to say that I work with both men and women and that it seems that everyone is reluctant to kind of bang their own drum. So I don’t feel that’s gender-specific.
I do work with a lot of women with the challenge of they’ve maybe stepped off the career track for a while or they’re pivoting and they’re moving back to work, paid work, but in a different capacity. I worked with a lawyer who was tired of being a lawyer and now is a professional chef. She made that choice because she wanted to pursue her passion and have more flexibility with her work life because of her children.
I feel like women have that challenge more than men do, where they’ve really taken time off and they need to communicate about career gaps. They need to share their value in a new area and not jettison everything from their past career but still come up with language that communicates value for what they’re doing today.
I think women have very different career paths, because a lot of women do take some time off. To get yourself back in the market, it’s so important to get the message right. How do you deal with that gap in years? It’s tricky. Every person’s situation is different. It depends upon how long they’ve been out. Some gaps you can kind of move away from, if it’s a short, under two-year gap. But if it’s a five or ten-year gap, it becomes a challenge.
I always advise that you have to be transparent, but you don’t need to be apologetic. No one needs to apologize for raising a child or caring for a loved one or deciding to pursue a different way of making money and a way of making a living. But people are busy. You have to explain where you were quickly and then move on, because a hiring manager, they’re busy. They give a 60 second overview. You need to account for years. So if you have missing years, you need to explain in a sentence or two what you were doing and then move on.
You really need to focus mostly on sharing the value that you offer that person. I think LinkedIn is the tool that you need when you’ve taken a career break too, because a paper resume’s pretty unforgiving. It’s just like a chronological listing of your work. You could do a functional resume, where you talk more about skills, but LinkedIn has other components where you can really showcase your skills.
There’s the summary section, which allows you to share your professional career in a narrative form. You could really make the case there for what you offer an employer. I mean, yes, your dates appear beneath that in the experience block, but if you’ve explained up at the top what you offer and why you’re missing some years, then you’re able to make the case for what it is that you can do today.
Plus it’s digital, so you can also add rich media. You can add a PowerPoint, art, slides, news articles. You can add a lot of different materials that showcase you in a 360 way that a paper resume doesn’t let you do.
What are some key tips you can share? My first rule of thumb is get going. Get on LinkedIn. Sign up. Have a profile. If you already have one, take it seriously. Go look at it and make sure that you’ve really developed each block.
The three tips that I share all the time are, one, really focus on your headline. The LinkedIn headline is the text that appears directly underneath your name. So my name is Katie Fogarty, and then directly underneath it is my headline. Many people put their job title into their headline. This is not wrong but it’s not interesting. This needs to be your elevator pitch. It’s your very quick introduction, because many people will go no further. They will only look at your headline and they’re going to move on.
Your headline needs to do two things. It should share both what you do and the value that you offer. I worked with a client who I absolutely adored. She is this dynamic, engaging woman, and her headline was ‘Janice Smith, President Smith Advisory’ [name changed for privacy] So what does Janice do? No one has any idea. We had to take it a step further and it became ‘Janice Smith, President Smith Advisory: A Digital Marketing Firm.’ This is better because we now know she does digital marketing. But who cares? A lot of people do digital marketing. Then we finally took it to its next iteration, and it became ‘President Smith Advisory: A Digital Marketing Firm Growing Arts, Music, and Entertainment Brands.’ Now we know exactly what she does. If I want to grow and I’m an arts brand, I know she can help me.
This is all in 120 characters; it’s shorter than a Tweet. We know exactly what she does and why we’d want to work with her. That’s what everyone’s headline should do. That’s my number one piece of advice. It’s really easy to do. It takes a little bit of thinking, 15 minutes of sitting down and creating a powerful headline.
My second piece of advice is to focus on key words. These are the Google search terms that you type into Google when you’re looking for something. You want your LinkedIn profile to be key word rich, because this is how you get discovered, both by recruiters and hiring managers and people in your network.
Say you want to tap into your own network, and you want somebody who’s an expert in X for your speaker series. You would want to type in that word and have that person come up. But if they haven’t bothered to key word load their profile, you might not realize they have that skill set.
So your key words are basically all the skills that you have but also your sort of soft skills–your people skills, you can add languages, you could add mentoring or guiding. The way I recommend people find their key words is to get on LinkedIn, which is full of job postings and ID three or four dream job postings or dream companies.
Say you want to work at Facebook or you want to work at Chanel in public relations. Get on, look at their job postings, print them out maybe, and then circle the key words of what they’re looking for. Then go look at your own profile and ask yourself, ‘Does my headline have key words? Is my summary section using some of these key words? Have I put these skills into my skills section? Does each one of my experience blocks have these key words?’
If they don’t, it’s time to start peppering those relevant key words throughout your profile where it makes sense. Because this is really how you get found. That’s my second piece of advice. Again, this takes 15 minutes. It’s not hard.
The third thing I would say–and this is something that I really feel strongly about–is you actually have to use LinkedIn. That sounds kind of silly, but I’ve had clients who call me and say, ‘It’s not working. No one’s approaching me. My network’s not growing.’ Then I will say to them, ‘Well, tell me how you’re using it.’ Then they’ll confess. They’re not getting on it. They’re not using it. They’re not interacting with people.
I get that. It’s the last thing I go on. Calendar it in. LinkedIn is a professional social network, so people are typically on it Monday through Friday during work hours. Maybe you don’t want to start your Monday that way, but maybe get on every Tuesday morning for 10 minutes. Like, comment, share an article. Let your network know what you’re doing.
A lot of people say to me, ‘I really don’t like social networks. I’m not into it.’ I’m tell them, ‘This is not like Instagramming your salad, okay? No one needs to know what you’re eating.’ This is totally different. This is your professional network. This is congratulating somebody on a promotion that they announce or finding an interesting article and sharing it. It’s really about networking from a place of generosity. It’s not about trying to grow your network desperately.
I think when people take on that attitude, that this is about sharing information with other people or letting somebody know that there’s a cool job opening at your company, people feel a lot more comfortable with that. It doesn’t feel so transactional. It’s more like ‘network from a place of generosity and use it’.
I love to share this story with people. I source clients from all over the globe—Germany to Dubai, through LinkedIn. One of my good friends from my D.C. days, I’ve known her for 25 years, lives in California now. We’re Facebook friends, we send Christmas cards. We’ve had dinner on the East Coast when she comes and visits her family for the past 25 years.
Two years ago, because we’re LinkedIn together, she saw that I was doing this LinkedIn work and was running trainings on LinkedIn, and she asked me to go to Cambodia with her–she runs a nonprofit–to do LinkedIn training for Cambodian nonprofit leaders. This only happened because we’re LinkedIn together. I’m not talking about the work that I do on Facebook or when we get together. Because I was sharing with my professional network what it is that I do, this totally unique and fabulous opportunity happened. It would not have happened any other way.
When you share what you’re up to with your network, it’s a door opener. I totally believe this. I’m very passionate about, in kind of a geeky way, how doors open through this platform. I’ve experienced it. I’ve had clients do it. They’ve shared amazing stories. So it’s really about using the platform.
That’s my third piece of advice. Dive in.
Want Katie to help you tell your story? Visit her site to learn more or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.