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Guest Post: Increasing Access to Opportunity

This week’s post is written for you by C3 community member, Isabelle Dominique “D” Ross, as an invitation to join us tomorrow, April 1st at 1:00 p.m. ET, for our discussion on Increasing Access to Opportunity. Dominique will be a guest panelist during tomorrow’s event, along with Sharon R. Clinton, Deputy Executive Director at the City of Philadelphia. Please be sure to join the C3 Community to join the discussion tomorrow and connect with the guest panelists and members.

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I’m looking forward to the upcoming “Answer the Call to Conscious Leadership” event, which is facilitated by Coaches Karen Huller and Lawrence Henderson, because this month’s panel will be discussing a topic that I’m deeply invested in and passionate about— “Increasing Access to Opportunity.” Friends and even connections who know me well can attest that this is a topic I will readily discuss at length.

Consider these questions:

  • How many of the organization’s lower-level and mid-level supervisors and managers can competently explain their tuition assistance or education and certification reimbursement programs, particularly if they’ve never accessed those programs themselves?
  • Do the organization’s team members understand the Employee Stock Purchase Plan or the 401K’s investment options? What about Employee Assistance Programs? What do those entail?
  • Why would an employee opt to access these benefits or maximize these opportunities?

Why is this topic so meaningful to me? I’ll share just a few snippets from my own journey in accessing opportunities.I was born overseas and I had a very “atypical” upbringing, so when I finally came to live in the US at the age of 19, I’d only formally completed a sixth-grade education. I quickly realized that my scholastic background severely limited my potential career options, so within several months of arriving in the US, I took and passed the General Education Development (GED) test and joined the Air Force.

In 1998, following my first couple of military assignments, I finally mustered the courage to register for my first college course with the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), using my military tuition assistance benefits. I was an active-duty military member, which meant I was already working full-time, and in my mid-twenties when I got started, so I was a “non-traditional student.” I knew I was coming from behind academically, and I’d have a long, long way to go to “catch up.” Because I was uncertain about my ability to succeed in taking college-level classes, I took just one speech class that the first semester, so I was excited to earn my first “A” grade in the course. The next year, I decided I could handle two classes at once, and the following year, three at a time. Due to my deficient formal educational background, especially in math and science subjects, I was required to take both “Elementary Algebra” and “Intermediate Algebra” before I could even qualify to complete “College Algebra” and satisfy the Basic College-Level Skills requirement for my undergraduate degree (I later learned during my graduate studies that needing to pay for and take remedial courses that “don’t count” can be a significant factor in why some individuals don’t complete their college studies, but I was fortunate to have tuition assistance benefits that paid for the majority of my undergraduate studies).

With my confidence buoyed after a few successful semesters, I’d set a new, more ambitious goal: I decided to finish my degree and apply for a commissioning program to become an Air Force Officer. However, since I’d merely taken one class that first semester of 1998, and then had only completed two classes per semester during the fall of 1999 and the spring of 2000, I knew I needed to get creative and find alternate ways to accelerate my studies if I was going to have any chance at completing my bachelor’s degree during the rest of my time in Alaska. To accomplish this, I became an avid researcher of the academic catalogs and the policies and processes within the university’s programs. By the time I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian Language from UAA in the Spring of 2003, I’d not only amassed 88 credits through the university, but I’d also earned eight additional natural science credits through academic petitions, and 52 credits through the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) testing and the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), which allowed me to apply for the commissioning program the following year.

Throughout my undergraduate studies, I developed and honed invaluable skills in researching, identifying, and demystifying academic and organizational requirements, policies and processes, that I’ve since applied to my subsequent graduate studies, pursuing and earning the Project Management Professional (PMP) and Professional in Human Resources (PHR) credentials, and in accessing other, sometimes obscure, organizational professional development and total rewards programs. The best part in all of this though is that I’ve been able to use these capabilities to guide and mentor others in doing the same.

My culminating assignment in the Air Force was as Instructor of English, Study Skills, and Honors, an Academic Advisor, and Dean’s Executive Assistant at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, where the mission is, “to motivate, prepare, and evaluate selected candidates in an academic, military, moral, and physical environment, to perform successfully and enhance diversity at the Air Force Academy.” Nearly 20 years before, I’d begun my Air Force journey with a sixth-grade education and a GED, and I was able to close out my time, serving others who came from similar backgrounds who wouldn’t have otherwise had access to those opportunities—they were prior-enlisted service members, first-generation college students, English Language Learners, etc.

Many years ago, during my time at UAA, I purchased a bookmark that featured a quote from Epictetus: “Only the educated are free.” That maxim became my mantra and the impetus for my educational and professional pursuits over the years. When I think about what it means to be “educated,” I see it as any learning event, program, or experience, whether it’s a formal higher education program or otherwise, that can propel an individual to that “next level,” enhancing their quality of life and their overall sense of well-being, not only for themselves but also their family members.

Being “free” means having options and choices. Discovering, accessing, and maximizing opportunities transformed my life, and there is no greater reward for me personally than being a conduit who helps another individual access an opportunity that leads to greater freedom in even just one aspect of their life.

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Special thanks to Dominique for this guest post. Please join the C3 Community to get the access link for tomorrow’s event and to be a part of future events as well.

Four Tops – Reach Out (I’ll Be There) (1967) HD 0815007

HQ-Video. Four Tops – Reach Out (I’ll Be There), ein Hit im Jahr 1966.

Karen Huller is the creator of the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint and author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days. She founded Epic Careering, a leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, in 2006. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. Her solutions incorporate breakthroughs in neuroscience, human performance optimization, bioenergetics, and psychology to help leaders accelerate rapport, expand influence, and elevate engagement and productivity while also looking out for the sustainability of the business and the planet.

Mrs. Huller was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. As an instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, she has helped two of her students win the 2018 National Competition to be named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, to win the 2019 People’s Choice Award, and to land in the top 8 during the (virtual) 2020 National Competition.

She is board secretary for the Upper Merion Community Center and just finished serving as Vice President of the Gulph Elementary PTC, for which she received recognition as a Public Education Partner and Promoter from the Upper Merion Area Education Association. She lives in King of Prussia with her husband, two daughters, and many pets, furry, feathered, and scaly.

8 Ways to Put Your Career on Autopilot

No Title by Kevin Hale from Flickr

No Title Given by Kevin Hale from Flickr

“If you build it, they will come.” This iconic line from Field of Dreams is powerful. While this line makes for a fantastic movie plot, building a product (or in our case, a personal brand) isn’t enough to guarantee success. You can build your reputation at work as a great employee, but very few people outside of your company will know about your personal brand and all of the great services you have to offer if you don’t advertise. Let’s look at a scenario that outlines how advertising a personal brand can be immensely helpful.

Dan is a brilliant IT Project Manager. His projects are consistently done on time and within budget. He always kept his team motivated and on task. Dan has a reputation for being a clear, concise and effective leader. He always had a great relationship with his employer, but he knew he’d eventually like to move on to a larger company. He was confident in his abilities and knew he could command a higher salary from a new employer. Dan wanted to look for jobs on his own terms. That meant creating a two-way street where in addition to asking contacts within his network for leads, the leads would also come to him. The IT Project Manager decided to create a campaign to advertise his personal brand to achieve those results.

Dan’s job search took the form of an advertisement campaign, not unlike a political campaign. The level of involvement went beyond completing his LinkedIn profile and staying active on social media. Dan made plans to meet and greet influential people within his industry, attend events, and garner name recognition. A campaign allowed him to market himself to potential employers and raise his industry influence. He was literally “running” for his next job! Dan created a website to serve as a hub for all of his social media accounts and used a landing page to acquire more information from his visitors. He began to blog about the difficult problems he faced and the solutions he had devised. On his social media accounts, he shared the content of other influential leaders within his industry. He bought ads from Google in order to promote himself and his achievements in the search results. He attended industry events, volunteered and offered to help others. Dan’s efforts produced a constant stream of job offers, a big boost in confidence and the ability to control his own professional and economic destiny.

In my scenario, Dan was passionate about controlling and advertising his personal brand. Every small and large company advertises their brand in order to promote their services or products, raise awareness about the benefits of their product, differentiate themselves from the competition, and retain their current customers. The same can apply to anyone who’s serious about putting their career on autopilot. How else will people know you are great? A well-advertised personal brand can generate momentum in your job search, more leads and the satisfaction of being better able to determine your job search outcome.

Here are several tactics you can use to put your career on autopilot:

 

  1. Infographics:

Create an infographic postcard and mail it to hiring managers at companies where you would like to work. We offer our own one-page infographic services that can be fully customized to your style, tastes and personality. Once your infographic is developed we can distribute it digitally via social sites like Pinterest or in print. Our infographic can also serve as a training document to teach your network how to develop great leads for you. You want your infographic to convey the value you would bring to a particular company and why you’re the solution to their problem. An eye-catching graphic as a first impression can capture the attention of a potential employer. Combine your infographic with a customized cover letter and you’ll definitely elicit interest in your résumé. The point isn’t to ask for a job, but to bring awareness to your personal brand. Websites such as Zoominfo and Data.com can be used to find hiring managers within companies. I wrote extensively about using websites to find people in my article, “10 Surprising Websites and 2 Secret Places Where you Can Research Employers.”

 

  1. Build and drive traffic to a personal website:

A personal website can serve as a portal for your online identity. It is a simple and elegant way to invite visitors to learn more about you and to connect with you. Links to social media accounts, blogs and a landing page can be added to your website. You can consider creating a landing page to capture information about your visitors in exchange for something such as a newsletter, small eBook (if you have one), or even access to a webinar.  About.me and Flavors.me are great services that can be that can be set up quickly and easily as a landing page or a small personal website.

Once you have your personal website established, you can use Google Adwords to place an ad. When a potential employer searches for you on Google the first thing he or she will see is your personal ad. Set your website as the URL. The space you’re given for an ad is limited, 70 characters including spaces, so your ad needs to be tight and focused. Phi Rosenberg has an excellent tutorial on how to use Google Adwords in his reCareered article. You can use keywords and search terms to target your audience. Alternatively, you can also use Google Adwords to target a hiring manager at a specific company. If you buy the Adwords for their name, you can craft an ad grabbing their attention and direct them to your website. I wrote about how Alec Brownstein used Google Adwords in just this manner in my article, “5 of the Craziest Ways People Found Jobs”.

 

  1. Join a new social media site and connect with influential people:

You may be intimately familiar with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Expanding your presence online and joining new social media sites is a great way to find and connect to a wider audience of influential people within your industry. If you have a person or potential employer in mind, search for them on a new network to see what you can find out. Here are a few suggestions: Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, Reddit and Plaxo. And for good measure, if you’re not on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, join those services. Once you’re on those services, don’t just follow people in your industry, share their content and create content of your own!

 

  1. Create a SlideDeck and share it through social media:

SlideDeck is a service that allows you to tell an engaging story that connects with visitors and compels them to take the actions you want. It is a sleek presentation that lets you communicate the value of what you’re selling in an easy and simple manner. Once you’ve set up and customized your SlideDeck, share its content through social media. Start with SlideShare and integrate it into your LinkedIn Profile. Mark Williams has an excellent tutorial. Double check to make sure your network notifications are on so that your connections will know when you share new content.

Now that your SlideDeck has been shared on your profile and your network has been notified, write a status update to ask anyone if they’ve seen it and what they think of it. If your account is linked to Twitter, share there as well. You can also share your presentation through LinkedIn groups. Ask for feedback on the presentation and try to get a discussion going. Sharing with a group gives you the opportunity to create a message, tell people what you’re up to and what you hope to do for your next employer.

After you integrate SlideShare into your social media accounts, you can go beyond just being found by others. You can also search for others on SlideShare, which brings me to the next strategy…

 

  1. Find and follow presenters on SlideShare:

Follow presenters on SlideShare and share their presentations on social media. If they have a profile, find and tag them when you share their presentations. Reach out to three of your favorite presenters. Use more than one method of contact to ensure you actually reach them. Several methods you can use are:

  1. Call on the phone. (This is the best method, but it can be scary for some people.)
  2. Contact them through their social media profile. (LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ are the best ways to make contact.)
  3. E-mail. (If your email doesn’t capture their attention it will be ignored.)

Choose two of these methods and prepare your pitch. Tell your favorite presenters that you saw their presentation on SlideShare and explain three things you liked about it. This will open up a conversation to talk more about the industry. Once you have their ear, tell them you’re looking for an opportunity to do X, in a certain organization and that you value their expertise in the industry. Let the presenter know you’ve shared his or her slides because of the valuable information. Also ask them how you can support their professional ambitions.

 

  1. Find and join a professional organization:

Search LinkedIn and find out to which professional organizations the executives in your target employers belong. Go a step further and find out when their events are happening. Some executives may have their groups publicized while others won’t. You’ll have to dig deeper to find those hidden groups. Try checking their biographies on the company website, check their LinkedIn profile groups section, and search for their information on Zoominfo.com. These areas will help show you online mentions for that person. After you identify an executive and his or her professional organizations, go to the website of that organization and browse the event calendar. Attend the event, join the organization and volunteer. Volunteering brings you to a greater level of visibility, and you may even be thanked publicly for your contributions. People are connected to others and an event at a professional group can lead you to more members, one of whom could possibly be your next employer.

 

  1. Guest post on blogs within your industry:

If you blog frequently about industry topics, you may want to try writing for someone else. Target influential bloggers in your industry, approach them with your ideas and ask them if you can create a guest post for their blogs. Posting on someone else’s blog can further expand your audience. You’ll gain more exposure on a platform that already has an established audience. You can also use this platform to build your credibility as an industry leader. Additionally, you can connect with other influential people and have your content shared with their social media followers. Guest posts are also a good way to help out a fellow blogger. These posts provide the fellow blogger with new content and credibility of their own as a destination where people want to guest post.

 

  1. Create a community or group:

Joining a group is one thing, creating your own group is an entirely different beast. Forming your own community is a major step in establishing yourself as a leader within your industry and to promote your personal brand. You can start a group on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or even on your personal website. If you go the personal website route, you can use a discussion platform on your blog such as Disqus, or you can go the forum route with a service like phpBB. Pick a particular niche within your industry that you’re passionate about and encourage others to join. You can help encourage and drive conversations, in addition to having a dedicated following for your content. It’s another great way to show potential employers that you have the ability to lead others outside of your workplace. You can take your community-building further by starting a group based on a personal interest. That professional momentum will be a byproduct of the personal connections you make. It has been said many times, in many ways that more deals are made on the golf course than in the boardroom. This is an opportunity to surround yourself with people with whom you already have something in common, and, therefore, a great foundation for building rapport and synergy.

 

If you brand it, you advertise it. Advertising your personal brand allows you to control the narrative of your job search and to put your search on autopilot. Just imagine the places you can go with a well-advertised brand. You’re constantly active in your industry and you’re one of the first solutions that come to mind when people have a problem. Your brand is visible and you’re a well-known leader within your industry. Suddenly, you’re a valuable commodity on the job market and your well-advertised brand has given you a huge competitive edge. When employers need a new position filled, they want to hire you. You’re a hot commodity and, like a popular and beloved product, people can’t get enough of your talent and your leadership. Just think of the opportunities that will be presented to you, and the greater economic stability and freedom that comes with choosing your next employer because of a strong and well-known personal brand.