Toolbox for the career search: personal branding and job interviews

Shows many job candidates in a waiting room

“The interview process is a dance of give and take.”

The interview process is a dance of give and take, says Reynold Lewke, a career and executive coach with more than 30 years’ experience working with people at all stages of their careers.

The first steps of the dance, however, happen even before the interview begins, he says, with thoughtful attention to your personal branding and due diligence in researching prospective employers.

Establishing Your Brand

Reynold Lewke, business instructor and career coach
Reynold Lewke, career and executive coach, as well as a business attorney and UCSC Extension instructor.

“The single biggest thing you can do to establish your brand is to identify what it currently is,” says Lewke, who suggests that every jobseeker start by googling their own name. “See what shows up on the first couple of pages. Your brand is what others think of you when you are not in the room.”

Lewke, a corporate attorney, litigator, and business advisor who runs his own strategic talent management consulting and executive search firm, has worn numerous different hats in his own professional life. He is the author of Hired for Youth, Fired for Age: Taking Charge of Your Career at 50+ (2015) and a business law instructor at UCSC Silicon Valley Extension.

“In today’s environment, Google searches drive that process, so you need to take active control of what is out there,” he says. “Then, you need to decide what your brand really should be.”

In Lewke’s new two-day course, Redesigning Your Career – Accelerated Weekend Career Workshop, he advises students to get help in fashioning a personal website, their LinkedIn profile, and a portfolio, if applicable. Begin establishing professional connections. After that, it’s about keeping your brand up-to-date.

“Your personal brand is the biggest single driver of whether your future is a random series of unfortunate incidents or whether you get to really enjoy your professional and personal life.”

The Interview

In Redesigning Your Career, students clarify their career path using assessment methodologies such as StrengthFinder and MBTI®. They practice interviewing, receive practical feedback, and see on videotape how they carry themselves.

Lewke advises his students to take time to learn about a prospective employer. To navigate the give and take of a successful interview, you don’t want to passively answer questions.

“A major misstep is lack of preparation.” Often people don’t learn about the company, the job, or the kind of people who are interviewing for the same position. “Asking questions about the company that can be explained on the first page of the corporate website is a quick way to end the interview.” The only thing worse? Showing up late for the interview.

The interview is a great opportunity to confirm the minimum requirements for a position and get a sense of what technical and people skills are needed so you can show how your prior experience builds into the new job role. You can ask about workplace culture, a preferred communication style, the kind of work ethic expected by the prospective boss. You want to show you’re interested enough in a particular job to do it well.

“You can ask questions that help you both see if there is a basic match between your skills and their wishes,” Lewke says.

The other part of the dance is determining if the position and the company environment is right for you.

“Too often, people allow their questions to be afterthoughts,” Lewke says. “Interviews are not one-way streets. You need to ask whether the role makes sense as a logical next step in your career path. Does it match up with your ambitions and direction? Does the job meet your desires relating to company size, culture, and pace? If you are not going to be happy and successful in the potential role, move on to the next one!”

Redesigning Your Career

Redesigning Your Career – Accelerated Weekend Career Workshop is a two-Saturday course structured specifically for jobseekers who are new to the U.S. job market, as well as people who are returning to the job market after taking time off for family and other personal reasons. You can learn more about our career-focused courses on our Career Services Resources website.

“The job environment has become more complex with the use of computerized resumé tracking systems, online applications, and a myriad of other technology-based recruiting tools,” Lewke says. “Knowledge of how to penetrate the job market, particularly the 75 percent of the market that is never published, is more important than ever.”

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